As the time for spring cleaning and spending more time outdoors arrives, the North Dakota Department of Health is encouraging citizens to take measures to avoid accidental poisonings.
In 2010, there were about 6,000 exposure calls made to the Poison Helpline. From 2005 to 2009, 126 North Dakotans died from unintentional poisonings.
"The numbers of calls we're receiving to the Poison Control Center is increasing, so we think it's important to get people information on what they can do to minimize the risks," said Diana Read, injury/violence prevention program director for the Department of Health. "For the past four years, each year the number of calls to the center goes up. A lot of those calls are for children ages 5 and under."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - When storing toxic substances, they should always be kept in their original containers with the original labeling. Outdated substances should be discarded.
Among the types of poisonings, the health department warned about vehicles left running in a closed garage, as well as other fuel-burning equipment such as generators, lawnmowers, leaf blowers and portable heaters left running in poorly ventilated spaces.
Many of the exposure calls report exposure to fluids that have been transferred from their original container and improperly labeled. Substances such as anti-freeze and windshield washer fluid can be toxic and might be ingested by children or even adults who have poured them into water or soda bottles for ease of use.
The health department advised keeping all fluids in their original containers and storing them on a high shelf.
In case of poisoning
In case of a poisoning episode, the health department urges people to do the following:
+ If the situation is an emergency, call 9-1-1.
+ Do not give the person anything to eat or drink. Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.
+ Bring the product or bottle to the phone so you can read the label to staff at the Poison Control Center. Explain what was taken, how much was taken, when it was taken and the age and weight of the person.
+ Do not give syrup of ipecac or activated charcoal unless advised to do so by the Poison Control Center or your physician.
Preventing accidental poisoning
The Department of Health recommends the following poison-prevention measures:
+ Store strong chemicals away from food and never store poison in food or beverage containers.
+ Read all labels before using a product and follow the instructions carefully while measuring.
+ Keep windows and/or doors open or run fans when using strong cleaning products.
+ Never mix cleaning products together as a dangerous gas may occur.
+ Never sniff containers to see what's inside.
+ Discard old or outdated products as the first aid advice on the containers may be incorrect or outdated.
+ Have the national poison control phone number available, along with other emergency contacts. Telephone stickers and magnets with the helpline phone number are available from the North Dakota Department of Health.
In addition, other chemicals stored in a garage such as fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are concerns. Pesticides pose the biggest risk if ingested or used without personal protective equipment.
Read explained that a higher percentage of deaths occurs in rural areas, where there may be more access to the chemicals or where there are longer distances to travel to get medical attention.
"One of the reasons for the higher number of deaths in rural areas is access to medical centers, because the time it takes to get to those centers that are farther away puts people more at risk," Read said.
"In fact, in our reports on the calls (to the Poison Control Center), many times the calls are made by a rural healthcare provider or a smaller healthcare facility that doesn't have access to someone who specializes in poisonings," she added.
Read said an increase in calls usually occurs over the months of June, July and August; when people are outside often and more likely to be exposed to toxic items.
"The warmer weather is a time when things are left unattended, because we're busy cleaning out the garage or we've forgotten where we stored things. We put things away in a hurry in the fall, sometimes transferring things to smaller containers. Sometimes those containers look very enticing to children," Read said.
Other hazards could arise with warmer weather as well.
"If you're out in the yard spraying chemicals, you don't want the children around at that time," Read said. "Children and pets should be kept off freshly treated lawns. These issues often arise in the summer."
Accidental poisonings remain one of the higher incidences of injury deaths in the state, and the health department hopes to provide continuing education on prevention measures.
"We want to get the number out for the Poison Control Center, and we want to get the message out that there are things people can do to prevent injury and death from accidental poisonings," Read said.