Reading Labels Can Save Lives, Part 2

By Lina Younes

Last week, I conducted several interviews for National Poison Prevention Week. I was often asked about the causes of poisonings. According to statistics compiled by the American Poison Control Centers, many of these poisons belong to products commonly found in our homes. Regardless of the specific “poison” involved, there is a common thread in the large majority of poisonings. Most of them can be prevented by reading the label first.

As I mentioned last week, having stopped to read the label prevented a poisoning in my home. Yet, there have been other poisonings prevented in my home by reading the label. For example, I remember when my older children were in elementary school, we received a notice of a lice infestation. Several days later, I realized that those “dandruff flakes” in their hair were actually lice. Of course, I rushed to the nearest drugstore to stock up on anti-lice products. I bought shampoos, special combs, and a pesticide for the bedding. When I got home, I quickly proceeded to wash their hair with the lice shampoo. I was tempted to leave the shampoo in their hair for a long time to make sure there were no further remnants of lice, but that sixth sense told me to read the instructions. The label said to rinse it out after 10 minutes!

What would have happened if I had left the chemicals in their hair for too long? Well, the chemicals would have been absorbed through their scalp and could have poisoned my children. It would have been as simple as that.

How many times do we actually apply multiple cleaning products at the same time so they will “clean better?” How many times do we empty a whole can of insecticide when we see one lowly cockroach in the house? How many times do we combine over-the-counter medications to supposedly get rid of a cold faster?

If you read the label, you will clearly see that you need to apply pesticides, cleaning products, beauty products, and even medications properly to protect yourself and your family. The label clearly provides instructions on the application, dosage, and duration. Reading might take some extra time, but it can save a life. Have you had similar experiences that you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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