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Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Protect Your Family from Household Hazards

The same products that help keep your body healthy and your house clean may also cause severe injuries and even death.
On March 16-22, the Atlantic County Division of Public Health will observe National Poison Prevention Week with a reminder to all county residents that many everyday items can be dangerous if used inappropriately.

According to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) nearly 80,000 poison exposures were reported to local poison control centers in 2002. Over 2,600 of those calls came from Atlantic County residents. Most poison exposures occur in the home and involve common household products such as cleaning supplies, medicine, cosmetics and other personal care items.

"County residents should be aware of the toll-free poison control hotline which immediately connects callers with the local poison control center," said Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson. "If you think someone has been exposed to poison, call 1-800-222-1222 and talk with a poison control expert."

Statistics from NJPIES reveal that, on average, poison control centers handle one poison exposure incident every 14 seconds through the designated telephone hotline. The poison control experts staffing the hotline provide help in these emergencies, in addition to answering general questions about medications, household products and other potentially hazardous substances.

Children under age five are most vulnerable to accidental poison exposure. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that nearly 1.2 million children under age six were exposed to poisonous substances in 2001.

"We are committed to reducing the number of accidental poison exposures in Atlantic County through education and environmental health inspections," explained Atlantic County Health Officer Tracye McArdle. The Division of Public Health investigates cases of childhood lead poisoning and inspects public facilities such as restaurants and public swimming areas to make sure that chemicals are clearly labeled and stored appropriately.

"In addition to our public health efforts, there are many simple things that you can do right now to reduce the risk of accidental poison exposure in your home," continued McArdle.

Taking the following precautions can significantly reduce the risk of accidental poison exposure in your home:
· Place houseplants and flowers out of the reach of young children.
· Never place rodent or insect baits where small children can get to them.
· Keep all cleaners and medicines locked up and out of sight.
· Make sure potentially hazardous items are not stored with food. Also, keep these dangerous items in their original containers with visible labels.
· Protect pets by keeping antifreeze, gasoline, paint and pesticides out of their reach. Dispose of these products on community household hazardous waste collection days.
· Do not leave open packages of household cleaners or pesticides unattended, even for a short time.
· Follow the instructions printed on medication packaging and never mix medicines with alcohol.
· Children under age six should be tested for lead exposure by a pediatrician.
· Make sure you inspect all fuel burning appliances regularly. If maintenance is needed, call a professional.
· Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
· If you suspect a poison exposure, contact the local poison control center immediately by calling 1-800-222-1222.

For more information about National Poison Prevention Week or ways to prevent poison exposure in your home, visit, or call the Atlantic County Division of Public Health at 609-645-5971.

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