Protecting Children from Poisoning

What to do when a child has accidentally drunk washing-up liquid or a drain cleaner? What to do to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the first place? Well-meant advice such as "Drink milk" or "Induce vomiting" can have a severe effect on health under certain circumstances. Poisoning accidents must be professionally assessed and individually treated, depending on the quantity ingested. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) received a report last year about a particularly severe case of chemical burning in an almost three-year-old Turkish girl who had accidentally drunk a cleaning agent imported from Turkey that contained nitric acid. In cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and responsible ministries, the institute used this case as an opportunity to impose a ban on nitric acid in consumer products throughout the EU. It also had its brochure "Risk of Poisoning Accidents Among Children" translated into Turkish and this publication is now available free of charge from BfR. The brochure provides parents with information on what to do first when a child has been poisoned. It also contains tips on the safeguarding of grill lighters, drain cleaners and medicines, along with emergency phone numbers and information on how to deal with cases of poisoning in children. The brochure was produced in cooperation with the emergency poison hotline Giftnotruf Berlin and the federal work group "More Safety for Children".

Accidents constitute the greatest risk to children’s health and although falls take first place, poisoning is common too. Experts consider the vast majority of these poisoning cases to be avoidable provided that parents, other relatives, childminders, nursery, primary and secondary school teachers are all suitably aware of the risks. The BfR brochure "Risk of Poisoning Accidents Among Children", which has now been published in Turkish too, outlines the poisoning risks for children that can emanate from chemical products, toys, medicines, plants and fungi. It not only contains tips on how to store chemical products safely out of the reach of children but also instructions which could save lives in an emergency. If, for example, a child has accidentally drunk a caustic drain cleaner, it should be given tea, water or juice, but under no circumstances should vomiting be induced. The product that caused the poisoning must also be identified, so a photo of the product label or type of berries eaten by mistake can provide the emergency services with valuable information on the treatment to be administered. To ensure that competent advice on further treatment can be obtained as quickly as possible, the brochure also contains the telephone numbers of the German poison information centres and other emergency numbers.

The brochure is available free of charge in German and Turkish from the press office of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Thielallee 88-92, 14195 Berlin, Tel 030-18412-4877, Fax 030-18412-4970,

About BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. BfR engages in own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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