More than 2 million poisonings are reported each year to poison control centers across the country. In California, the California Poison Control System (CPCS) is dedicated to providing residents with the most up-to-date information and 24-hour assistance relating to poisoning. National Poison Prevention Week, March 18-24, provides the ideal opportunity to remind Californians about poison prevention as well as to provide information about potentially hazardous situations that exist in their own homes.
“More than 90 percent of accidental poisonings happen in the home,” said Dr. Cyrus Rangan, Assistant Medical Director and Director of the Los Angeles Medical Toxicology Education Program, California Poison Control System. “It is critical that all consumers are aware of all the potential hazards in their home including the proper ways to store food and to dispose of medications.”
Old, unused and expired prescription and over the counter medication should be discarded immediately. Consumers have several options to safely dispose of medications: wrap medication containers in some sort of durable packaging, such as a thick paper bag or plastic bag that can be sealed, and place in the trash such that children and pets will not be exposed. Tablets and capsules can also be crushed or dissolved in water and mixed with kitty litter, coffee grounds, sand or other kitchen waste and placed in a sealed plastic bag and thrown away, and some California city and county hazardous waste collection facilities will also accept medications for disposal. Always be careful to remove and/or destroy all identifying personal information on the medication container. Some people may find that the only way they can dispose of their medications is by flushing them down the toilet. Although the safety or risk of flushing medications has not yet been fully determined, keeping old medications in the home where they can be accessed by young children or used incorrectly creates the opportunity for a potential exposure. Keeping the home safe by disposing of old and unused medications is most important.
The following are some additional poison prevention tips from the CPCS:
- Keep the number 1-800-222-1222 on or near all phones.
- Keep medicines and cleaning products out of reach of children and in locked cabinets.
- Always keep products in the containers they came in.
- Never keep cleaning products, gasoline, antifreeze, pain and paint thinners, or lighter fluid in something you would use for food or a beverage.
- Do not store food and household cleaners in the same cabinet.
- Never call medicine candy.
- Do not take medicine in front of children; they love to do what adults do.
- If you are in the middle of taking medicine or using a cleaning product and you need to answer the door or phone, take it with you.
- If you are a grandparent, be sure to keep your medicine and vitamins where your grandchildren can’t get to them.
- Keep things like make-up perfume, cigarettes, alcohol and vitamins where children can’t reach them.
In case of an accidental poisoning, consumers should immediately call the CPCS at 1-800-222-1222 for advice. Pharmacists, Nurses, Physician-Toxicologists and Poison Information Providers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help. In most cases a poison exposure can be safely managed at home with the help of a CPCS poison center expert, avoiding a call to 911 or a visit to a crowded hospital emergency room. Many parents think about contacting the poison control services only in case of an emergency, but experts are available to answer questions anytime.
To help consumers better understand poison control services, the CPCS offers many materials free of charge. Brochures that describe poison control services , and include a removable magnet with the toll-free telephone number are available in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese. Consumers can ask for the brochure by going to the Web site at www.calpoison.org, or calling 1-800-582-3387.