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Household Cleaners and Eye Injuries: The Importance of Safe Storage

Dec 17, 2019
Household Cleaners and Eye Injuries

The holidays are upon us and the homes we visit may not be used to having little ones around. It’s important to remind friends and relatives about safe storage of dangerous products. Household cleaning products represent a major source of exposures reported to U.S. poison control centers, and they commonly involve the eyes, especially among children. 

A recent study found that U.S. poison control centers received 319,508 calls for household cleaning product-related eye exposures from 2000 through 2016 – that’s about two every hour. Most eye exposures were associated with bleaches, followed by wall/floor/tile cleaners, disinfectants, laundry detergents and glass cleaners.

Children two years of age experienced the highest rate of exposure, likely because they spend so much time in the home, have newfound mobility, curiosity for the unfamiliar and an inability to recognize potential danger. Cleaning products may be particularly alluring to young children due to their colorful packaging, contents and unique scents. 

Eye exposures to laundry detergent increased 126% over the study period, which was mainly driven by laundry detergent packet-related eye exposures - which increased by 1,960% from 2012 to 2016. Young children, in particular, may burst open the packets, resulting in ingestions as well as skin and eye exposures. 

Parents and caregivers can help keep children safer from household cleaning products by following these tips:

  • Store safely. Store all household cleaning products up, away and out of sight of young children. Close containers and put them away immediately after use.
  • Keep it traditional. People who have young children or adults with dementia or developmental disability that live in, or visit, their home should use traditional (liquid or powder) laundry detergent, which is much less toxic than laundry detergent packets. 
  • Save the national Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cellphone and post it near your home phones. Call immediately if you think your child has come into contact with a household cleaning product or other dangerous product. You do not need to wait for symptoms to develop to call.
In addition to household cleaning products, learn other ways to keep kids safe when visiting family.
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Laura Dattner
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.

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