Unintended exposure and ingestion of hazardous materials is a leading cause of poisoning in the United States. In fact, according to a 2020 study from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 93% of cases occurred in a residence, with an average exposure reported every 15 seconds. Impacting residents of all ages, injuries usually stem from inhalation, ingestion, and even topical exposure. Ahead of the National poison prevention week, let’s look at the types of poisoning and how each can be prevented in the home.
Types of poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. It is produced by fuel-burning or due to improperly ventilated appliances and engines. When the air you inhale contains substantial amounts of carbon monoxide, the body replaces the oxygen in the cells with carbon monoxide. This disrupts the body's oxygen supply, leading to serious internal damage and even death.
Lead poisoning occurs due to prominent levels of lead in the body. It happens over time due to exposure to contaminants in the air you breathe, the food you eat, or chemicals mistakenly swallowed. It also can impact children's behavior and impede their growth and development. It can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, heart, stomach, and other organs.
Toxic Indoor plants
Indoor plants are a fantastic addition to the home, helping improve the overall ambiance of a space. However, while most indoor plants are safe, there are a few that should be treated with caution because ingesting or merely touching them can produce mild to severe reactions. As a result, it is essential to investigate the nature of a plant before purchasing it.
While practical for everyday use, several household and toiletry products can cause chemical poisoning if accidentally ingested. These products unfit for human consumption range from insect repellent spray and soaps to cleaning supplies and paint thinners.
Symptoms of poisoning
Poisoning symptoms depend on the cause and intensity of exposure or ingestion, with some general symptoms including:
- Mental confusion
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty in breathing
Tips to prevent poisoning at home
Household cleaners and other chemicals
Label and store all potentially dangerous substances and products used in daily life in a secure location away from children.
Ensure your water heating system, gas, coal, or fuel-burning appliances are in proper working condition and do not have any leaks. Get them serviced by a qualified technician every year and make sure the ventilation system is cleaned and does not have any debris.
Toxic Indoor plants
Investigate properly before selecting any indoor plant for your home, and keep all plants, fertilizers, and pesticides out of the reach of children and pets. Additionally, educate your family members about safe practices while handling such plants. Below are some indoor plants to be mindful of before bringing them into your home or visit the National Capitol Poison Control Center’s Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Plants page for a complete list.
- Philodendron: Commonly found across all households, this plant contains insoluble crystals of calcium oxalate called raphides which can cause mild to severe skin reactions and allergies to humans and pets.
- Oleander: This beautiful flowering shrub can grow indoors and outdoors, but all parts of this plant are poisonous to humans and pets. Contact with its milky latex can cause severe skin irritation, increased heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, oral irritation, shallow breathing and even death due to cardiac failure.
- Golden Pothos: This plant is also known as devil’s ivy; this plant is dangerous to both pets and children. Chewing or biting its leaves can cause swelling of lips, tongue and upper airway.
- Arrowhead plant: The sheer beauty of this plant provides a nice touch to your home décor; however, people should be aware of its highly toxic nature. Encounters with the leaves or sap can cause swelling, burning irritation in the mouth, throat and stomach. It can even cause severe issues like vomiting and swelling of the mouth in pets.
If your home has lead-based paint, look out for peeling and fix it as soon as possible. Additionally, seek out organic foods rich in Vitamin C, Iron and Calcium as they can help prevent lead from being absorbed in the body.
If you are unsure whether you have an issue with lead in your home, contact a professional to get a lead test.
What to do if poisoning occurs
National Poison Prevention Week is an excellent time to increase awareness about the measures you can take to prevent unintentional poisoning. It is also the perfect opportunity to inspect your home for products or issues that can be hazardous to your health.
If you suspect that you or someone in your home has been exposed to poison, seek immediate medical attention. For poison emergencies anywhere across the United States, you can call the National Capital Poison Center at 800-222-1222 to seek help from experts or visit Poison.org for additional information.