According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 300 children in the U.S. are treated daily for poisoning in emergency departments. The Minnesota Poison Control System reports that the most common call they receive each month is related to household cleaner poisoning. Out of 4,200 calls, poisonings related to children five years and younger make up 42% of these calls. Protect your family from potential poisoning with these safety tips to properly store and dispose of toxic household cleaners.

Laundry Detergent Packets Cause Poisoning in Children

Common household products can be dangerous for young children, as seen with the recent problem of children eating miniature detergent packets. Children eat the packets because they mistake them for brightly colored candy. The packets cause more severe poisoning symptoms (i.e. difficulty breathing), compared to liquid or powder detergent, because the packets are more concentrated and activate more quickly when ingested.

Store Cleaners in Safe, Locked Locations

It’s important to check every room in your home for toxic cleaners: kitchen, bathrooms, living and family areas, laundry room, garage, backyard/outdoor areas. Store household products safely out of the reach and sight of children. Don’t forget about your pets – toxic cleaners can be harmful to animals as well.

To prevent poisoning, WebMD recommends the following guidelines for storing household cleaners:

Keep cleaners in their original container. Do not store in milk jugs or coffee cans. Children can easily mistake them for food or drinks, and may accidentally ingest the toxic product.
Remove household products from under the sink or easy-to-reach drawers or cabinets.
Install child safety locks on cabinet doors and drawers before toddlers learn to crawl, walk, and climb.
Supervise children. While cleaning, do not leave products unattended and after use, return them to their original locked location.
Discard old or empty products outside in a sealed trash receptacle.
Don’t Mix Cleaning Products Together

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises parents that one of the best ways to keep children safe is to carefully read and follow all label instructions when using household cleaners. Do not combine common household cleaners as they could produce toxic fumes, and can be harmful to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Avoid mixing these products together:

Acidic and alkaline products – acids mixed with bases can cause chemical burns
Vinegar or ammonia with bleach – releases dangerous chloramine vapors
Different brands of products – may produce harmful toxins
If you are worried about the safety of your family and pets, use non-toxic, eco-friendly household cleaners.

Do Not Dump Household Waste

Remember to respect the environment, and do not dump toxic chemicals down storm drains or in lakes or rivers. If you need to dispose of household waste, The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency offers a Household Hazardous Waste program.

Warning Signs of Poisoning

Despite taking safety precautions to keep your family safe, accidents can sometimes happen. The Mayo Clinic points out the following warning signs related to poisoning:

Burns or redness around mouth and lips
Chemical odor on child’s breath
Severe symptoms include:

Extreme agitation or restlessness
Difficulties with breathing, speaking, or has stopped breathing

If you suspect a family member has ingested a toxic household cleaner, call Minnesota Poison Control 1-800-222-1222. If they show severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 911 immediately.