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Pediatric poisoning deaths rising sharply, CPSC warns

Photo: mielag/iStockphoto

Washington — Unintentional poisoning deaths involving children younger than 5 jumped 153% between 2018 and 2020 – a dramatic shift from the declines recorded in previous years, a Consumer Product Safety Commission report shows.

In 2018, unintentional pediatric poisoning from consumer products resulted in 17 deaths, marking the third straight year the total had fallen and the lowest on record since the CPSC was founded in 1972. Now, data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that fatalities jumped to 34 in 2019 and 43 in 2020.

“Although it is too early to know whether recent increases are indicative of a trend, or if they are outliers, clearly the COVID-19 pandemic has led families to spend more time indoors,” the CPSC says. “This increases the risk of unintentional poisonings that could result in injury or death.”

According to the CPSC, in 2020, emergency rooms treated an estimated 61,500 children for unintentional poisonings, while an estimated 18,100 children ingested blood pressure medications, acetaminophen, antidepressants, dietary supplements or bleach.


Injuries related to batteries rose 62% among children ages 5-9 over the first nine months of the pandemic, while serious injuries related to cleaning chemicals climbed 72%.

Additionally, the percentage of unintentional poisonings among Black children is higher than their makeup of the U.S. population – 19.8% vs. 13.4%. Hispanic children, meanwhile, comprise 18.5% of the population and account for 19.1% of poisonings.

To help prevent child poisonings, the agency recommends parents and caregivers:

  • Keep chemicals, medications and cleaning supplies safely stored and out of the reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet or box.
  • Keep medicines and household chemicals in their original, child-resistant containers.
  • Don’t let children handle laundry detergent packets, and store the packets in their original container out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Keep electronics or other products with accessible, coin-size button batteries out of the reach of children and use tape to help secure battery compartments that don’t have a screw closure.
  • Save the Poison Help Hotline number – (800) 222-1222 – in their cellphone and call immediately if a poisoning is suspected.

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