Inform Your Community About Poison Prevention

By Tom Kiurski

Accidental poisonings still kill about 30 children each year in the United States. While this number has substantially declined from more than 100 deaths per year 30 years ago, there is still much that can be done in your communities to decrease that number by even more.

Inform your citizens about the National Poison Control Center telephone number. This number is the same throughout the country, and uses technology (similar to the 911 technology) to automatically route the call to the Poison Control Center closest to the caller. The national number is (800) 222-1222, and there are many ways to help your citizens remember (or have access to) it. Try writing an article about the dangers of poisons for publication in your local newspaper and include the number. Have bookmarks or brochures made to give simple poison prevention messages, and include the number on the item.

If you have any speaking engagements set up prior to National Poison Prevention Week, recognized from March 20-26, 2005, be sure to include tips on poison prevention. There are a number of places, such as the NFPA Web site, the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site, and the Poison Prevention Week Council’s Web site, to get good information to include in your presentation.

The “Top Ten” poison exposure cases, starting with the highest number of cases, involve cleaning substances, followed by pain relievers, cosmetics and personal care products, foreign bodies, cough and cold products, bites and stings, insecticides and pesticides, topical medicines and food products (believe it or not, toothpaste is poisonous).

Use your local cable television to record a short PSA (Public Service Announcement) about poisonings, or post it on their character generator played during the “non-programming” times for your channel.

In Livonia, we created a wooden frame that holds several poisonous substances, attached right next to some common household items that are not poisonous (such as a vial of windshield washer fluid, Sudafed tablets and Tums alongside blue Kool-Aid, M & M’s and SweetTarts). This display is put up in the City Hall lobby during Poison Prevention Week, and has also spent time set up at Fire Headquarters and the Main Library. A display that is much smaller and easier to transport can also be put together quite easily. Purchase the items at a local store and put them into zip-lock plastic bags.

Remember, the two most important things parents and caregivers can do to prevent accidental poisoning are:

  1. Always use child-resistant packaging.
  2. be sure to keep medicines and household chemicals locked up and out of the reach of children. These are good tips to leave with any audience you speak with.

Tom Kiurski is a lieutenant, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999) is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.

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