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Press Release

Press Release # 007-09
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CONTACT: (212) 788-5290
Jessica Scaperotti/Sara Markt,

Health Department Reminds Parents to Keep Hazardous Household Items Away From Children

National Poison Prevention Week is March 15 - 21

March 18, 2009 – Common household products, such as bleach and laundry detergent were a leading cause of poisonings in New York City last year, prompting a fourth of all calls to the city’s Poison Control Center, the Health Department reported today. To mark National Poison Prevention Week, health Poison Controlofficials urged parents and caregivers to protect young children by keeping these and other toxic substances safely out of reach. The city’s Poison Control Center received nearly 70,000 calls in 2008, 37% of which were for children under five. About 90% of poisonings occur in the home.

While the majority of poison-related hospitalizations result from ingesting medications, most calls to the Poison Control Center involve the ingestion of common household products. “Keep cleaners, medicines and cosmetics out of children’s reach or locked in cabinets,” said Dr. Robert Hoffman, Director of the Poison Control Center. “And if your child is exposed to something dangerous, call 212-POISONS right away for help.”

Top Reasons for Calls to Poison Control Center for
Children Under Five (2008)



Number of Calls

1. Cosmetic/personal care

hand soap, shampoo


2. Household Cleaners

Bleach, ammonia, detergent


3. Analgesics

ibuprofen, acetaminophen


4. Foreign Bodies

silica packets from bags/shoes


5. Topical

diaper rash cream, petroleum jelly


6. Vitamins



7. Pesticide/Rodenticides

bait pellets


8. Arts/Crafts

crayons, glue


9. Cough & Cold

cough syrup, cold medicine


10. Antihistamines



Poisoning prevention: What you should do to keep your family safe

You can Poison Proof Your HomeMost poisonings are preventable. Parents and caregivers should take the following steps to poison-proof their homes:

  • Identify the things inside and outside your home that are poisons.
  • Keep poisons out of children’s reach and use cabinet safety locks.
  • Keep household products in their original containers and make sure bottles are labeled.
  • Use child-resistant containers. Be sure they are closed.
  • Never keep non-food items with food.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in sleeping areas.
  • Keep plants out of children’s reach.
  • Post the Poison Control Center number near all telephones and be sure that babysitters and family members know where the number is posted.
Poisoning in kids: How to know and
what to do

Some signs of a poisoning are:

  • an open container nearby
  • pills, berries, etc. in the mouth
  • strange odor on the breath
  • burns around the mouth
  • upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or unconsciousness

If you suspect that a poisoning has occurred, call the Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS (764-7667). All calls are kept confidential. Do not stick your finger down the person’s throat to make the person vomit or give anything by mouth unless told to do so by the Poison Control Center or a doctor. If the patient is unconscious, convulsing, or having trouble breathing, call 911 right away.

Poison Control in New York City

In 2008, the Health Department worked to prevent household poisonings by distributing 176,000 multilingual brochures, providing 65 educational sessions, and placing newspaper advertisements in English, Spanish, and Chinese. Educational materials are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Russian and Bengali.

The New York City Poison Control Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pharmacists and nurses are always available to give advice. All calls are free and confidential. Translation services are provided in more than 150 languages.