Sunday, July 3, 2011

And the top 10 poisons are...

Fear not it’s National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW)! The mere mention of the word poison is enough to make us cringe. By poison, we mean a substance that can cause a disturbance to organisms, usually by chemical reaction, when a sufficient amount is ingested. Of course, there are the other potent things that can poison the mind and pollute the soul, but I digress.

FYI, as per Presidential Proclamation No. 1777, Series of 2009, NPPW is held annually every fourth week of June to raise public awareness on poison prevention.

To mark NPPW (and tell everyone there’s such a week), a toxic watchdog urges the public to watch out for poisons and take life-saving precautionary measures to avoid poisoning accidents that can endanger children’s health.

What are these chemical hazards lurking in our own home and how do we prevent poisoning, especially among our precious children? To dramatize the importance of the celebration, members of the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol trooped to Mega Q-Mart (the former Nepa Q-Mart) on EDSA to disseminate vital bits of information. Holding up big mock images of product containers that bear the morbidly familiar symbol of skull and cross bones, the AlerToxic patrollers mingled with shoppers and gave out leaflets entitled Kalatas (short for Kamalayan sa Lason at Lunas or Awareness on Poison and Cure). The very absorbing leaflet contains handy, down-to-earth tips that parents, teachers, and workplace managers will find useful in reducing, if not eliminating, chemical poisoning as a result of improper purchase, handling, use, and storage of products containing harmful substances.

“The myriad of poisoning cases involving children due to the consumption of or exposure to harmful products and substances should stir parents, as well as school administrators and teachers, into employing precautionary steps to stop such incidents,” says Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

And what are the top 10 poisons? Citing data from the 2010 annual report of the UP National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC), the EcoWaste Coalition reports that the top 10 poison agents in terms of in-patient referrals for the pediatric age group are: kerosene, caustics (such as chlorine bleach), silver jewelry cleaners, pesticides (like insecticide lotion and spray, and rat poison), ferrous sulfate, elemental mercury (like the silvery liquid in some thermometers), paint thinner, paracetamol, button cell batteries, and benzodiazepines (psychoactive drugs).

“Many of the poisoning cases that have occurred in the past could have been prevented if only these common sense tips (mentioned below) were applied,” laments Dizon.

And the top tips to prevent poisoning are:

• Be a health and safety-conscious consumer: Read product labels, demand chemical information, and select non-toxic products.

• Keep a record of hazardous and potentially hazardous products, as well as wastes, in your home, school or workplace such as cosmetics and toiletries, cleaning agents, automotive supplies, herbicides, pesticides, and other products with added toxic chemicals.

• Label chemicals and store them properly in a dry, locked or tamper-proof cabinets.

• Ensure that chemicals are out of children’s and pets’ reach, and far away from food and water. Do not store cleaning supplies with or near food items.

• Follow instructions for the safe handling, application, and storage of products containing harmful substances, including directions for safe disposal.

• Never mix chemicals unless specified in the instructions to avoid risky chemical reaction (for example, combining ammonia with bleach will yield poisonous gas).

• Ensure that chemicals are tightly capped and securely stored after use to avoid emission and spillage, and never leave them unattended.

• Do not remove poisonous products from their original containers or packages and do not destroy product labels or inserts, which could contain life-saving information.

• Never store chemicals in beverage or food containers as children tend to associate potable drink and edible food with some containers.

• Do not place ant, roach, and rat poisons on the floor that children can mistakenly ingest. Try non-chemical alternatives to get rid of household pests.

• Keep medicines duly labeled and stored in child-proof containers and cabinets, and check the labels and expiry dates before taking them.

• Refrain from taking medicines in front of kids as they tend to mimic what adults do. Kids should not be told that medicine is candy.

• Dispose of used button cell batteries properly and keep the unused ones far from children’s reach.

• Have a first-aid kit ready and accessible in case of an emergency.

• Regularly wash or clean children’s hands, toys, and other items and places frequently used by kids to minimize potential exposure to lead and other harmful chemicals.

• Know where to call or get help in the event of suspected or actual poisoning. Call or visit a doctor at once and be sure to keep the original container of the ingested substance for reference. You may also contact the UPNPMCC at the following numbers: 524-1078, 554-8400 local 2311, 0922-8961541.


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