Household Cleaning Products Still Pose Risk to Kids

While the number of poisonings has dropped, experts say it is still too high.

ByABC News
August 2, 2010, 12:33 PM

Aug. 2, 2010— -- Early childhood injuries from household cleaning products dropped by almost half over the past two decades, largely due to child-resistant packaging -- but the number of injuries still remains high, according to an analysis of a national database.

Overall, the number of kids age 5 and younger treated in emergency departments for household cleaning product-related injuries fell 46 percent from 22,141 in 1990 to 11,964 in 2006, Lara B. McKenzie of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues found.

Child-resistant packaging mandated for the most dangerous products -- furniture polish, drain cleaners, and oven cleaners -- appears to be partly responsible for the overall drop, McKenzie's group reported online ahead of print in the September issue of Pediatrics.

At the same time, injuries in young children sustained from cleaners contained in spray bottles did not decline; spray bottles were the most common source of exposure at 40.1 percent. The most common mechanism of injury was ingestion.

One reason is that spray bottles don't feature the same degree of safety mechanisms that other types of bottles and containers do, McKenzie noted in an interview.

"The locking mechanism on spray bottles isn't really child-resistant, and it may be easy for [children] to manipulate," she told MedPage Today.

McKenzie recommended that household cleaners and other poisonous substances be stored in locked cabinets after every use -- out of sight and out of reach.

"Simply having a safety mechanism on a product is not going to guarantee a child is not going to get into that product," she said. "It's resistant but not impossible to get into."

The researchers examined household cleaner-related injuries treated from 1990 through 2006 at the network of roughly 100 hospitals that form the nationally-representative sample that reports to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).

They narrowed the search to cases that occurred among children age 5 and younger -- since most poisonings occur in this age group -- largely because of small children's curiosity, mobility, and desire to put things in their mouths, McKenzie's group noted.