Hydrocarbons a major household danger for children

As summer approaches, parents should take an inventory of their household products

With summer time approaching, there are a few extra things that parents will have to keep an eye out for, like making sure they're keeping a close eye on their children around swimming pools and beaches. And making sure products like suntan lotion are being used regularly.

But there are other things parents will have to look out for as the weather starts to get warmer like making sure their kids aren't ingesting hydrocarbons.

What are hydrocarbons and what do they have to do with summer time?

A hydrocarbon is a liquid that evaporates when poured out and it's often used in everyday household items like cleaning products. It's also in fuel for the lawnmower and lighter fluid for the grill, which tend to be used more often during summer, making it easier for children to get their hands on it.

Lung damage

Dr. Heath Jolliff, D.O., of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital said that even if children don't swallow products containing hydrocarbon, once the liquid turns into gas it can still damage their lungs.

"These things evaporate and that's part of the danger," he said.

"A child will place that in their mouth and even if they don't intend to swallow it, it turns into a gas and goes into their lungs and that's when it causes the big problem."

According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, hydrocarbons are the third-leading cause of poisoning deaths in children under 5 years of age. In addition, the study shows that more children are injured during the summer months from hydrocarbons and boys ages 1 and 2 have the highest chances of being injured. 

Between the year 2000 and 2009, more than 100,000 hydrocarbon-related injuries were reported, which equates to one injury every hour, the study found. 

This study on hydrocarbons and the injuries they cause to children is the first of its kind, the researchers say.

Take stock 

Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., of the Center for Injury Research and Policy says summer is the ideal time for parents to take another look at the products in the home to make sure they're being kept away from children.

"More of these cases occurred in the summer months," she said. "So the change of seasons is a really good time for parents to sort of take stock and evaluate what kind of products they have and how they're stored."

Although children continue to be poisoned from hydrocarbons in household products, Jolliff says the number of cases have been going down.

"The good news is that the number of injuries has declined significantly between 2000 and 2009 because of changes in packaging laws and public awareness," he said. "Unfortunately, more children are poisoned from hydrocarbons because of incidents at home, demonstrating a greater need for preventive education for parents."

McKenzie says that parents should be extremely mindful of keeping household products in the original packaging, so it's harder for children to confuse liquids with a food or drink.

"Inquisitive children mistakenly identify hydrocarbons as a food or beverage and attempt to ingest the poison, which is the most common way children are exposed to the chemical," she said. "The changing seasons should remind parents to ensure proper storage of hydrocarbons in their original containers."

In addition, researchers say parents should be sure their children aren't in reach of household products as they're being used, since it's easy for a child to get his or her hands on a container while a parent is doing chores.

Parents should use a combination or a key lock to secure hydrocarbon-based products and they should never underestimate how high a child can climb to reach them, McKenzie concluded.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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