Poison Safety

  • Poison Prevention Tips

Research shows that poisoning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury related death in the home. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) more than 92 percent of the 2.3 million poison exposures reported in the latest year studied occurred in the home. Yet, the Home Safety Council found that most families are not taking the appropriate precautions to reduce the risk of poison exposure.

Poison prevention is for everyone, not just children. Poisoning prevention advice can help individuals and families keep their homes safer from poisonous and toxic products, chemicals and gases, regardless of the ages of the occupants. Homes with young children need to take extra precautions. Follow these guidelines to keep your family safe from poison exposures at home:

  • Make sure all potentially dangerous products (household cleaners, medicines, and typical garage items like antifreeze and pesticides) all have child resistant closures on them, are locked up, and are stored in high places.

  • Homes with young children should have child locks installed on cabinets.

  • Store food and non-food products separately. This protects consumers in the event of a leak in the product and reduces any possible confusion between items.

  • Make sure all medicines and prescriptions have not expired. If they have expired they should be flushed down the toilet and not thrown away in the garbage.

  • Immediately mop up puddles of anti-freeze and car oil in the garage or driveway. They are extremely harmful to children and pets.

  • Read the use and storage directions before using products. Original labels on product containers often give important first-aid information.

  • Wear gloves and follow manufacturer's instructions when using harsh chemicals or cleaners.

  • Do not mix household products, because their contents could react together with dangerous results.

  • Post the national poison control hotline (1-800-222-1222) next to every phone.

  • To prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, have your home heating equipment inspected annually and install a UL-listed CO alarm near every sleeping area.

  • Walk through the most common rooms where potentially harmful products are stored including the kitchen, bathrooms and garage. Learn more about room-by-room poison prevention in Home Safety Council's safety guide.


  • The National Poison Control Hotline and How to Use It

Poison Centers in the United States managed more than 2.3 million poison exposures in 2002, and more than half of these exposures were children under the age of six. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) provides a national poison control hotline, which offers the best initial line of defense for any poison emergency.

Calls to the hotline will be automatically connected to the local poison control center where specially trained nurses, pharmacists and physicians will provide immediate emergency help to callers. If necessary, the poison center will call an ambulance and will provide advice to the EMT's when they arrive.

Callers may also call the hotline any time for advice about preventing poisoning. Experts are available to answer questions about poisonous plants, poison prevention advice, and how to use pesticides safely.

The Home Safety Council recommends memorizing the national hotline number -- (800) 222-1222 -- and posting the number with other local emergency phone numbers next to every phone.

  • CO Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that is difficult to detect because it is odorless and invisible. As a result, it is known as "the silent killer." According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), this poisonous gas kills nearly 300 people in their homes each year.

CO is produced by fuel-burning appliances and equipment in our homes. If you have heating, cooking or power equipment that uses fuels such as oil, natural gas, coal, wood, propane, gasoline, etc., then your home is at risk for potential CO poisoning. Homes with attached garages are also at risk, because vehicles left running in the garage can cause CO to seep into the home.

CO poisoning can be prevented by proper care and use of household equipment. CO alarms can provide early detection if CO leaks or accumulation occurs. Both are important for your safety.

  • If you suspect CO poisoning in your home, call the appropriate responding agency, usually your local fire department or 9-1-1. Keep all emergency response numbers posted by every telephone.

  • CO alarms are different from smoke alarms, and have different functions. CO alarms do not provide early warning of a fire. Smoke alarms do not provide early warning of CO exposure. Your home needs both CO and smoke alarm protection.

Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to symptoms of the flu, and can include headache, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath. If your CO alarm sounds check to see if it is plugged in properly, or if battery-powered, check the battery to be sure the device is operating. If you suspect that CO is leaking in your home, follow these steps:

  • Open windows and doors to ventilate the rooms, or in severe cases of CO exposure, evacuate the home.

  • Call to report that you suspect CO is accumulating. Usually the appropriate agency to call is the fire department or 9-1-1.

  • Seek immediate medical treatment for anyone who has severe symptoms.

  • Follow the advice of the responding agency before re-entering your home, and quickly obtain repairs as needed.

  • Preventing CO Poisoning at Home

Use the following to avoid CO poisoning in your home:

  • Purchase CO alarms that are listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Install at least one CO alarm in your home, near the sleeping areas. A hallway outside bedrooms, for example.

  • Use appliances and equipment according to directions and only for the purposes, they are intended. For example, use a range or cook stove only for cooking, never to heat your home.

  • For additional safety from CO exposure:
  • Never use a barbecue or gas grill indoors, inside a garage or in an enclosed porch.

  • Electric generators must never be used inside the home or garage, or in any enclosed area.

  • Back vehicles out of the garage when warming up the engine.

  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your central heating system before the heating season each year.

  • Have a professional sweep inspect your chimneys once a year and clean them if needed.

  • If you have a wood stove, verify that it meets local fire codes. Contact your town's fire marshal if you have questions.

  • When purchasing a new wood stove or portable space heater, choose equipment that is UL-listed.

  • Open flues before using fireplaces.

  • Be aware that kerosene heaters are illegal in some areas.

  • Re-fuel kerosene heaters outdoors only, after the device has cooled.

  • Kerosene and gas heaters should always be used with ventilation (such as an open window).

Purchasing a new home? Before you sign the contract, have the home inspected to ensure fuel-burning heating and cooking equipment is safe to use, including fireplaces, wood stoves and chimneys.

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