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Child Alcohol and Drug Poisonings Rise

One in eight accidental poisonings of kids aged five or under involves booze or illegal drugs.

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By Chrisanne Grise

06/01/12

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Alcohol and illicit drugs account for about one in eight accidental drug poisonings of infants and toddlers in the US, according to registry data from 31 toxicology centers. Sixteen percent of confirmed poisonings were from cardiac drugs, 15% from psychotropic drugs and 13% from recreational drugs and alcohol—and ER visits for poisoning by children aged five and under rose 30% from 2001 to 2008. "Infant and toddler poisonings pose a unique public health concern," says Dr. Yaron Finkelstein, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the University of Toronto. "They involve among the most helpless and vulnerable populations in our society, partly because of their inability to protect themselves from environmental hazards, or communicate the circumstances of their injury." The report comes on the heels of several well-publicized infant and toddler poisoning stories. Just a few weeks ago, the pretrial began for several members of one Ohio family over the death of a 17-month-old baby from methamphetamine poisoning. The real numbers of such poisonings may be significantly higher than reported, as the National Poison Data System (NPDS), run by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, relies mainly on volunteered information. "The NPDS system probably underestimates the true magnitude of the problems," says Finkelstein, "since less than 20% of poisoned children who actually present to the emergency department have contacted the regional poison control center."

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