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Parents warned of poison dangers

Jun 04 2012

Drain cleaner-laced drool from a toddler's mouth once gave Vancouver Island's chief medical health officer second-degree burns to his left hand.

That was in the mid-1970s, when Richard Stanwick, president-elect of the Canadian Pediatric Association, was in his medical residency in Winnipeg.

"The drain cleaner hasn't changed, it's still a caustic," Stanwick said. "And people are still storing cleaning products under the sink."

On average, every hour at least one child in B.C. is poisoned, according to the Provincial Health Services Authority. The products range from prescription medications to household cleaning materials.

The child who accidentally drank drain-cleaner required 50 operations in four years, Stanwick said. He lived, but at what cost, Stanwick said.

It's why Stanwick was on the front line for Safe Kids week's "Out of Sight and Locked up Tight" campaign last week.

In B.C. in 2010, 100 children up to 14 ended up in hospital after such incidents, 72 per cent of which involved children under five.

According to Vancouver Island Health Authority, in 2010-11, 27 children - infants to age 16 - were admitted to hospitals on Vancouver Island after poisoning incidents. Of those, 27 were at Victoria General Hospital and three at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. In 2011-12, the admissions on the Island were 26, with 16 of the cases admitted through Victoria General and three at Nanaimo General.

Parents may lock up their drugs but forget that there are pills in mom's purse, on the grandparents' bedside tables, or non-prescription medicines in bathroom drawers, Stanwick said.

Dr. Debra Kent, clinical supervisor for the B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre, said more than half of all poisonings occur in children younger than six; most of those occur before age three.

"The ones we are most concerned about generally involve medication," Kent said.

The Poison Control Centre offers a 24-hour advice hotline at 604-682-5050 or 1-800-567-8911.

- Residential quantities of household hazardous waste can be dropped off at the Hartland facility year round, free of charge.

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