Label Chemicals Properly While Spring Cleaning

It's Poison Prevention Week. Spring cleaning this weekend? A doctor has tips for storing chemicals safely to avoid accidental poisonings.

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CLEVELAND – Whether you’re working with cleaning solutions or lawn care products – it’s important to think safety first.

According to Baruch Fertel, MD, MPA, an emergency medicine specialist with Cleveland Clinic, some people make the dangerous mistake of storing chemicals in unlabeled food or beverage containers.

“If you look at a bottle and there’s no label on it. People may think it’s water. Or, if you use a bottle from a sports drink, people may think, ‘Ah, that’s a drink!’, and they may not realize it could be something such as a pesticide, an insecticide, a hydrocarbon or something of that nature,” he said.

Recent research looking at poison control data shows accidental ingestion of a chemical substance stored in an unmarked container is common. 

The report found the most likely culprits were cleaning products, disinfectants and hydrocarbons, which are often found in fuels.

Dr. Fertel said most of the cases in the study didn’t lead to serious illness, however the authors did report 4.4% had serious effects, including 23 deaths.

He said different substances can cause different injuries when ingested. Some can result in stomach irritation or damage to the airway.

The good news is these accidents are easily preventable.

“If you’re taking a material that needs dilution; if you’re moving something from the container that it came in to another container, try not to use food containers,” said Dr. Fertel. “If that’s all you have available to you, please label them very clearly with a label that won’t fade or won’t peel off, so that somebody doesn’t accidentally ingest them.”

Dr. Fertel said it’s important to call poison control right away if you’ve accidentally ingested any type of chemical substance.

Once they know what you’ve ingested, they can help guide you to an antidote or medical help.

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