Newark, NJ— A simple decision to take home a commercial cleaning product from work led to dangerous consequences for two New Jersey families within the recent month.  For the second time in a four-week period, a young child has been injured and hospitalized after drinking a commercial stove cleaner/degreaser taken home by a family member who works in a restaurant.  

Upon further investigation, it seems the products involved were taken home in non-child resistant packaging and/or transferred into an old water bottle, according to Bruce Ruck, PharmD., Managing Director of the NJ Poison Center. “Removing any product from its original, labeled container is setting the stage for the perfect storm as seen here with these cases,” says Ruck. Degreasing products may contain high levels of lye, a corrosive chemical which can do permanent damage to a patient’s mouth, throat, and GI tract.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases. Poison centers around the country, including New Jersey, are all too familiar with the tragic consequences of removing household/industrial cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, medicines, etc. from their original containers and storing them in unlabeled, old food or drink containers (bottles, cans, cups, glasses). It’s only a matter of time for someone – adult or child – to mistake those containers for a beverage.

Parents and family members of young children must be careful about what they bring home from work. According to Dr. Diane Calello, Medical Director of the NJ Poison Center and Pediatric Emergency Physician, many industrial/commercial grade products are very concentrated and contain strong chemicals not allowed for household use. “Even in their original containers, industrial-strength cleaners may not have the same level of child-resistant packaging required of household grade products. The problem is made far worse when the product is transferred into another container which may look like a juice bottle or other beverage. Tragedy can and often does occur.”

Fortunately in these two New Jersey cases, each child was extremely lucky and is expected to make a full recovery in time. “The next case could cause a lifelong injury, or worse,” says Calello, who encourages families to lock up their cleaning products in cabinets high and out of sight of children. 

Do not take chances by waiting until symptoms occur. If an exposure happens, it’s good to know help is just a phone call away. If someone is unconscious, not breathing, seizing/convulsing, bleeding profusely, difficult to arouse/wake up, etc. call 911 immediately, otherwise call the NJ Poison Experts at (1-800-222-1222).

“Don’t waste valuable time looking up information on the Internet when every minute counts. Many of the calls we get are genuine emergencies,” says Ruck. “Having a poison expert give you real-time instructions for your specific situation can make all the difference.”

Help is Just a Phone Call Away

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