Health Tips - Poison Prevention
of this fact sheet (PDF, 266 KB)
Each year in the U.S., thousands of people suffer from accidental
poisoning. They often
require emergency care. Household poisonings involve carbon monoxide fumes, cleaning
products, cosmetics and personal care products, pesticides, medications, and
plants. Poisonings are usually associated with young children, but also can
involve adults and senior
Handling and Storing Toxic Chemicals
Cleaning products, lawncare chemicals, insecticides, paint removers or
thinners, and medications are found in most homes. When used for their
intended purpose, these products can make our lives easier and more
enjoyable. However, when they are used inappropriately or ingested
by a curious child, these chemicals can cause serious health problems or
Tips on Poison Prevention
Protect your family
against carbon monoxide. Install a carbon monoxide detector near
the bedroom area of your home and have your heating system inspected every fall.
Store chemicals and
medications in their original containers. Original
containers for these products list
information that may be needed in case of a poisoning. In
addition, medicines and chemicals that have been transferred to an
unlabeled container may be difficult to identify. Use of
food containers like drinking glasses, cups or
soda cans to store pesticide solutions, cleaning compounds, or
solvents can result in an accidental poisoning.
Read and follow product
labels. Learn to use label information to select products that are safe for your home and
for the environment. If you have questions about the use and disposal of a product, call the
When buying chemicals,
buy only as much as you need for the job you plan to do. Although
buying a larger quantity may save you a few dollars, storing left over
toxic chemicals in your home is not a good idea.
Never mix products that contain chlorine bleach with products that contain
acids or ammonia.
Mixing these chemicals creates deadly chlorine gas.
Use the Wisconsin Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222)
as a resource. Post their number near each telephone in your
home. Call the Poison Center from anywhere in Wisconsin if you have questions about a
toxic substance or possible poisoning.
Tips to Prevent Childhood Poisonings
Store toxic chemicals in
locked cabinets or above counter level. All cleaning
products, toiletries, pesticides, and paint products should be
stored out of sight and reach of small children.
Store vitamins, iron
pills, and other medications in locked cabinets. Hide the
key in a separate location.
Get rid of expired or unwanted medications through a local pharmaceutical
Buy products packaged in
childproof containers. Remember, this may delay access, but
it doesn't prevent it.
Keep poisonous plants
out of small children's reach. Learn about the plants in your home and yard. Some
very common ones, such as philodendrons, dieffenbachias, and lilly
of the valley, are poisonous. Consider loaning toxic houseplants to
a friend or taking them to work until your toddler is older.
Living in a Home with Lead-Based Paint
If your home was built before 1978, it may have lead-based paint or varnish.
- Dust or chips from lead-based paint can easily poison preschool-age children. Children
under 3 years old are at highest risk. If they play near
windows or other places with worn out or damaged paint, they can get dust on
their fingers and toys.
- Childhood exposure to lead causes problems with learning, growth and
behavior that can last a lifetime.
- Adult exposure to lead can affect pregnancy success and blood pressure
Tips on Lead
- Have preschool-age children tested for
lead. Most children
with lead poisoning don't look sick. The only way to know if a
child is lead poisoned is to have a blood test. Your local
health department, clinic, or doctor can give your child a blood
test for lead. All preschool-age children who live in or
regularly visit older homes (e.g. daycare, babysitter's or relative's
home) should be tested. If your child's blood lead level is
high, more tests will be done to be sure the lead level is coming
- Clean up chips and dust from leaded paint. If you can, use a
High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum for this purpose.
Ask your local health department
where you can find a HEPA vacuum to borrow.
Wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up paint chips and dust.
- Control lead dust by damp dusting hard surfaces, wet mopping floors and vacuuming
carpets frequently. Wash dust rags separately from other laundry
items or throw them away.
- Focus on windows and woodwork. Use paper towels, warm water and soap (any
will work) to wash dust and loose paint chips from window wells and
woodwork. Rinse well.
- Don't allow children to play or sleep in areas that are contaminated
with chips or dust from lead-based paint.
- Wash children's hands often. This is especially important before
meals and snacks, after playing outdoors, and before nap or bedtime.
- Choose foods that are high in calcium and iron. These minerals help to
prevent lead absorption.
- Never disturb old paint when children are around. Keep children away
from the home while you work on deteriorated painted surfaces.
- Never dry scrape, dry sand or use a heat gun or torch to remove old
paint. These methods can increase your family's exposure to
lead. Instead, use a spray bottle with water and wet down the
surfaces where you are going to remove loose paint. Make sure to
clean up the paint chips and dust immediately.
- Call your local health department or the
Wisconsin Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
Program (608) 266-5817 for more information.
Mercury In Your Home
Many common household items such as
thermometers, thermostats, electrical switches,
fluorescent light bulbs, and smoke detectors
can contain traces of mercury. When these items are broken, burned, or
tampered with the mercury can be released into the air
of your home. Breathing air that contains mercury can can cause nerve and kidney
Avoid buying items that
contain mercury. Look for safer substitutes such as
alcohol-filled or digital thermometers.
If a mercury thermometer
breaks in your home, clean the mercury up carefully, double wrap
it in plastic and discard it in your household trash. Do not
vacuum up mercury droplets. This can cause dangerous levels
of mercury vapors to be released into the air.
Contact your local
health department immediately for assistance with
spills of more than a teaspoon of mercury. These spills
require special cleanup procedures.
*** Never vacuum mercury droplets.
This can cause dangerous levels of mercury vapors to be released
into the air.
Hazardous Household Waste
Take advantage of annual "clean sweeps" that may be sponsored
by your local community to get rid of toxic household wastes like leftover
paints, solvents, and pesticides. Take used motor oil and batteries to
community drop off sites for recycling. The city of county waste
manager can tell you where your nearest drop off site is located.
Contact the Department of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for a schedule
of clean sweep programs (exit DHS) in your area. Expired or unwanted
medications can be taken to a local pharmaceutical
clean sweep program.
For more information
Prepared by the
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Division of Public Health
Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health
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July 25, 2013