Parents & Teachers


Safeguard Your Child from Accidental Poisoning

Montlick & Associates

Poison Prevention

Family Safety Advocate, Jacquie Palisi shares simple precautions you can take to help protect your child from accidental poisoning. For more ways to greatly reduce the risk of accidental poisoning in your home, please download our Poison Prevention Guide below.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Every year, nearly 300 people in the United States die in their homes from this deadly gas. It has no smell, no taste and no color. The gas is carbon monoxide (CO), and it is truly a "senseless" killer.

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning any fuel. Therefore, any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential CO source.

When appliances are kept in good working condition, they produce little CO. Improperly operating appliances can produce fatal CO concentrations in your home. Likewise, using charcoal indoors or running a car in a garage can cause CO poisoning.

The initial symptoms of CO are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Irregular breathing

Remember, if you have any of these symptoms and if you feel better when you go outside your home and the symptoms reappear once you're back inside, you may have CO poisoning.


  • Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney
  • Loose or missing furnace panel
  • Sooting
  • Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections
  • Debris or soot falling from chimney, fireplace, or appliance
  • Loose masonry on chimney
  • Moisture inside of windows


  • Internal appliance damage or malfunctioning components
  • Improper burner adjustment
  • Hidden blockage or damage in chimneys


  • Room Heater
  • Furnace
  • Charcoal grill
  • Range
  • Water Heater
  • Auto in closed garage
  • Fireplace
  • Any gasoline engine, such as a generator


  • Make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer's instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by professionals.
  • Have the heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually.
  • Follow manufacturer's directions for safe operation.
  • Examine vents and chimneys regularly for improper connections, visible rust or stains.
  • Notice problems that could indicate improper appliance operation:
    1. Decreasing hot water supply
    2. Furnace unable to heat house or runs constantly
    3. Sooting, especially on appliances
    4. Unfamiliar or burning odor
    5. INSTALL A CO DETECTOR FOR ADDED SAFETY (Must meet the requirements of UL 2034)


  • Never burn charcoal indoors or in a garage. Never service appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools.
  • Never use the gas range or oven for heating.
  • Never leave a car running in a garage.
  • Never operate unvented gas-burning appliances in a closed room.

Iron Poisoning

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that iron medications (sometimes identified as ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, or ferrous fumarate) can be deadly to a young child. Many adults may not realize the hazard of iron preparations. The Commission recommends that parents keep medicine with iron out of the reach of young children.

Iron is available in combination with vitamins or alone. According to poison control center data, iron supplements are responsible for 30 percent of pediatric poisoning deaths from medications. A small number of iron pills consumed by a child can cause death. Poisonings happen when children swallow their parents' iron pills. CPSC recommends that obstetricians and gynecologists tell their maternity patients that prenatal medicine with iron is poisonous to children.

CPSC requires that iron-containing medicines and vitamins with iron be packaged in child-resistant closures. Parents should always properly re-secure safety closures. In addition, parents should keep medicines with iron out of the reach of children and should properly discard iron pills after use so children cannot reach them. Medicines should be discarded by flushing down the toilet, not in a wastebasket where children can find them.

Lead Poisoning

Simple Steps To Protect Your Family From Lead Hazards

If you think your home has high levels of lead:

  • Get your young children tested for lead, even if they seem healthy.
  • Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
  • Make sure children eat healthy, low-fat foods.
  • Get your home checked for lead hazards.
  • Regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces.
  • Wipe soil off shoes before entering house.
  • Talk to your landlord about fixing surfaces with peeling or chipping paint.
  • Take precautions to avoid exposure to lead dust when remodeling or renovating (call 1-800-424-LEAD for guidelines).
  • Don't use a belt-sander, propane torch, dry scraper, or dry sandpaper on painted surfaces that may contain lead.
  • Don't try to remove lead-based paint yourself.

Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly.

Lead From Paint, Dust, and Soil Can Be Dangerous If Not Managed Properly.

FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.

FACT: Even children that seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.

FACT: People can get lead in their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips with lead in them.

FACT: People have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.

FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

LEAD GETS IN THE BODY IN MANY WAYS 1 out of every 11 children in the United States has dangerous levels of lead in the bloodstream.

People can get lead in their body if they:

  • Put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths.
  • Eat paint chips or soil that contain lead.
  • Breathe in lead dust (especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces).

Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because:

  • Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them.
  • Children's growing bodies absorb more lead.
  • Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity)
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Headaches Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
  • Difficulties during pregnancy
  • Other reproductive problems (in both men and women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain

Get your children tested if you think your home has high levels of lead. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Blood tests are important for:

  • Children who are 6 months to 1 year old (6 months if you live in an older home that might have lead in the paint).
  • Family members that you think might have high levels of lead.

If your child is older than 1 year, talk to your doctor about whether your child needs testing.

Your doctor or health center can do blood tests. They are inexpensive and sometimes free. Your doctor will explain what the test results mean. Treatment can range from changes in your diet to medication or a hospital stay.


In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint. Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned lead-based paint from housing. Lead can be found:

  • In homes in the city, country, or suburbs.
  • In apartments, single-family homes, and both private and public housing.
  • Inside and outside of the house.
  • In soil around a home. (Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint, or other sources such as past use of leaded gas in cars.)

Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can't always see, can both be serious hazards. Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard. Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention.

Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:

  • Windows and window sills.
  • Doors and door frames.
  • Stairs, railings, and banisters.
  • Porches and fences.

Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can reenter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it.

Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.


Removing lead improperly can increase the hazard to your family by spreading even more lead dust around the house. Always use a professional who is trained to remove lead hazards safely. In addition to day-to-day cleaning and good nutrition:

  • You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions like repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions (called "interim controls") are not permanent solutions and will not eliminate all risks of exposure.
  • To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a lead "abatement" contractor.
    1. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough.
    2. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems--someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. If possible, hire a certified lead abatement contractor. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules as set by their state or by the federal government.

While paint, dust, and soil are the most common lead hazards, other lead sources also exist.

  • Drinking water -- Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it: Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
  • The job -- If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your clothes separately from the rest of your family's.
  • Old painted toys and furniture.
  • Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain.
  • Lead smelters or other industries that release lead into the air.
  • Hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
  • Folk remedies that contain lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon" used to treat an upset stomach.

The National Lead Information Center: Call 1-800-LEAD-FYI to learn how to protect children from lead poisoning.

For other information on lead hazards, call the center's clearinghouse at 1-800-424-LEAD. For the hearing impaired, call, TDD 1-800-526-5456 (FAX: 202-659-1192, Internet:

EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline: Call 1-800-426-4791 for information about lead in drinking water.

Mercury Vapors:

Because some herb-selling shops or "botanicas" sell mercury for use in homes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is alerting consumers that mercury vapors (which have no odor) are hazardous. CPSC recommends that consumers avoid breathing mercury vapors. Most uses of mercury that expose consumers to fumes are banned. However, some ethnic traditions encourage the sprinkling of mercury around the house for religious reasons. This is hazardous because people - especially young children - could breathe the mercury vapors.

Mercury can cause serious and permanent nerve and kidney damage. Mercury poisoning (acrodynia) has these symptoms: rapid heartbeat, sweating, irritability or hostility, withdrawal or shyness, memory loss, peeling of hands and feet, leg pain, slight hand tremors, difficulty with fine motor control (such as handwriting), sleeplessness, and headaches. Young children and children born to women exposed during pregnancy may be especially sensitive.

If you believe you have mercury poisoning, see a doctor. If mercury has been sprinkled in your home, open all windows so the mercury vapors can escape. It may take several days of ventilation to eliminate the mercury. If you have questions about how to clean up and dispose of mercury, call your local health department. To avoid mercury poisoning, do not sprinkle mercury around the house or expose people in the home to mercury vapors.

Poison Control

Millions of people are exposed to poisons each year in the United States. In 2000, poison control centers reported approximately 2.2 million poison exposures, 920 of which resulted in death. Nearly all poison exposures (more than 90%) happen in the home and involve common household items such as cleaning products, detergents, medicines, vitamins, cosmetics, and plants.

Children under the age of 5 are in stages of growth and development in which they are constantly exploring and investigating the world around them. This is the way they learn. It is a normal characteristic and should not be discouraged. Unfortunately, what children see and reach, they usually put in their mouths. It is this behavior to which parents must be alerted. As the youngsters' mobility, ingenuity, and capabilities increase, they can reach medicines and household chemicals wherever stored. For instance, when children are crawling, they can find such products as drain cleaners stored under the kitchen sink or on the floor. As soon as they are able to stand, they can reach such products as furniture polish on low-lying tables, as well as medications in purses on beds. When they start to climb, they can reach medicine on countertops or open the medicine cabinet and get to the medicine. These products should be locked up where possible, out of the child's reach - even when safety packaging is used. Adults should never leave a medicine or household chemical product unattended while in use; children act fast and can get hold of a product and swallow it during the short time while the adult is answering the telephone or doorbell. Advise the caregiver to take the child (or product) with them to answer the phone or doorbell.

Prevention Tips
  1. Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after use.
  2. Keep all chemicals and medicines locked up and out of sight.
  3. Call the poison center (800-222-1222) immediately in case of poisoning. Keep on hand a bottle of ipecac syrup but use it only if the poison center instructs you to induce vomiting.
  4. When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if you must take the child or product along when answering the phone or doorbell.
  5. Keep items in original containers.
  6. Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before using.
  7. Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them because lamp oil is very toxic.
  8. Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the dosage every time.
  9. Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as "medicine," not "candy."
  10. Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically, and safely dispose of unneeded medicines when the illness for which they were prescribed is over. Pour contents down drain or toilet, and rinse container before discarding.

Children can be protected if all potentially toxic substances (e.g., medicines, cleaning products, pesticides, and automotive chemicals) are stored in child-resistant containers, locked out of children's reach. The national toll-free number for the poison center, 1-800-222-1222 should be posted on or near the telephone.

Parents and guardians must take every precaution possible - it only takes seconds for a poisoning to happen. Supervision is extremely important- particularly when children are visiting friends or family who may not have a child-safe home.

Getting expert advice by calling the poison center immediately after a poison exposure is the best way to prevent serious effects from a poisoning.

Poison Lookout Checklist:

The home areas listed below are the most common sites of accidental poisonings. Follow this checklist created by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to learn how to correct situations that may lead to poisonings. If you answer "No" to any questions, fix the situation quickly. Your goal is to have all your answers "Yes."


Do all harmful products in the cabinets have child-resistant caps? Products like furniture polishes, drain cleaners and some oven cleaners should have safety packaging to keep little children from accidentally opening the packages.

YES ____   NO ____

Are all potentially harmful products in their original containers? There are two dangers if products aren't stored in their original containers. Labels on the original containers often give first aid information if someone should swallow the product. And if products are stored in containers like drinking glasses or pop bottles, someone may think it is food and swallow it.

YES ____   NO ____

Are harmful products stored away from food? If harmful products are placed next to food, someone may accidentally get a food and a poison mixed up and swallow the poison.

YES ____   NO ____

Have all potentially harmful products been put up high and out of reach of children? The best way to prevent poisoning is making sure that it's impossible to find and get at the poisons. Locking all cabinets that hold dangerous products is the best poison prevention.

YES ____   NO ____


Did you ever stop to think that medicines could poison if used improperly? Many children are poisoned each year by overdoses of aspirin. If aspirin can poison, just think of how many other poisons might be in your medicine cabinet.

YES ____   NO ____

Do your aspirins and other potentially harmful products have child-resistant closures? Aspirins and most prescription drugs come with child-resistant caps. Check to see yours have them, and that they are properly secured. Check your prescriptions before leaving the pharmacy to make sure the medicines are in child-resistant packaging. These caps have been shown to save the lives of children.

YES ____   NO ____

Have you thrown out all out-of-date prescriptions? As medicines get older, the chemicals inside them can change. So what was once a good medicine may now be a dangerous poison. Flush all old drugs down the toilet. Rinse the container well, then discard it.

YES ____   NO ____

Are all medicines in their original containers with the original labels? Prescription medicines may or may not list ingredients. The prescription number on the label will, however, allow rapid identification by the pharmacist of the ingredients should they not be listed. Without the original label and container, you can't be sure of what you're taking. After all, aspirin looks a lot like poisonous roach tablets.

YES ____   NO ____

If your vitamins or vitamin/mineral supplements contain iron, are they in child-resistant packaging? Most people think of vitamins and minerals as foods and, therefore, nontoxic, but a few iron pills can kill a child.

YES ____   NO ____


Did you know that many things in your garage or storage area that can be swallowed are terrible poisons? Death may occur when people swallow such everyday substances as charcoal lighter, paint thinner and remover, antifreeze and turpentine.

YES ____   NO ____

Do all these poisons have child-resistant caps?

YES ____   NO ____

Are they stored in the containers?

YES ____   NO ____

Are the original labels on the containers?

YES ____   NO ____

Have you made sure that no poisons are stored in drinking glasses or pop bottles?

YES ____   NO ____

Are all these harmful products locked up and out of sight and reach?

YES ____   NO ____

When all your answers are "Yes," then continue this level of poison protection by making sure that, whenever you buy potentially harmful products, they have child-resistant closures and are kept out of sight and reach. Post the number of the Poison Control Center near your telephone.

Sources: The safety tips in this section were compiled from the following great internet resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (, "Family Disaster Plan" developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross. (