How to Keep Your Home and Family Safe from Poison

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Accidental poisoning is the fifth leading cause of injuries, deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits in Canada. Because human error is inevitable, we can strive to educate ourselves on the dangers of toxins in the home and workplace to protect ourselves and our families. During Poison Prevention Week, review some of the best tips to prevent unintentional poisoning.

Keep bright-coloured cleaning products out of sight

Although people of all ages can be accidentally poisoned, children younger than 6 years make up nearly half of all accidental poison exposure cases. Simple household items, such as kitchen and laundry powders, liquids, pods, and capsules, can pose dangers to children. To small kids, the bright packaging can be mistaken as treats. Store detergent out of reach of young children, on a high shelf or in a locked cupboard. Return it as soon as you’ve finished using it.

Dangerous medications and products should also be stored away from the reach of children. If children can’t access the dangerous chemical compounds in the home, they can’t ingest them; high cupboards are useful for this. You can stash your bleaching agents, cleaning products, and other useful (but dangerous) household compounds in high places that are inaccessible to children.

Don’t let pets get tempted

Pets are also at risk of accidentally ingesting potentially life-threatening common items in the home. Pets are very susceptible to injecting poison because they are naturally curious. They often can’t resist smelling, tasting, and sometimes swallowing foods, plants, and other items in our homes that interest them. Make sure your houseplants are non-toxic, and store medications in secure areas. Know where to find your local animal poison control centre, reach out for help from your veterinarian, or call the North American-wide 24/7 Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661.

Expect protection in the workplace

Consider the dangerous substances that may be encountered on-the-job. Make sure to perform hazard assessments for all high-risk substances. Always read the labels and ask your supervisor to see the safety data sheets (SDSs) before handling chemicals or materials in the workplace to ensure you are informed of safe handling recommendations.

Ideally, chemical products should be kept in their original containers as often as possible. The only time it is recommended to use a small temporary container is if you are the only one accessing the contents. If a chemical must be transferred to another bottle, labelling the temporary container is imperative. A chemical product’s container often has valuable instructions for treatment of poisoning if it’s ingested – without these, you may not be able to take necessary steps to avoid injury or death.

React to incidents appropriately

Have your provincial Poison Centre information accessible at all times by displaying it in places such as on your fridge, family notice boards, and inside medicine cabinets, for example. If a poisoning does occur, the most important thing is to do is remain calm. Find the chemical or medication that the child, adult, or animal ingested, and look for appropriate next steps on the bottle. After that, call your local Poison Control Hotline. Experts will walk you through the required next steps of treatment, which may include induced vomiting, flushing affected areas with water, or a trip to the emergency room.

For more helpful homeowner information, read our AMJ Campbell blog.