• There were 59 pediatric poisonings in kids under five years old in 2021
  • The year also saw more than 60,000 emergency room visits due to poisoning in young kids
  • Most of the poisonings happened at home

Accidental child poisoning deaths in the United States saw a 37% spike in 2021, a new report has found. This highlights the need to do more to protect kids.

Items like household chemicals and medications can pose accidental poisoning risks in children younger than five years old, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) noted in its annual report on pediatric poisoning fatalities and injuries.

The agency found that there were 59 pediatric poisonings in kids under five years old in 2021, marking a 37% increase from 2020 when there were 43 fatalities. The increase in 2020-2021 was also higher than the 2019-2020 period, which saw a 26% rise.

Apart from these fatalities, 2021 also saw 62,600 emergency department-treated injuries due to unintentional poisonings in kids under five years old — this was also an increase from the 61,500 cases in 2020. Both these numbers were still lower than the 67,500 injuries logged in 2019.

The top five products linked to these incidents were blood pressure medications, acetaminophen, antidepressants, laundry packets and bleach, the agency said in a release. Other items include dietary supplements, ibuprofen and illegal drugs.

Protecting kids from poisonings

There are federal laws that help protect children from poisoning. The Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA), for instance, aims to reduce kids' accidental ingestion of harmful chemicals through special containers that would hinder their access to such items.

"As a direct result of the PPPA, children 5 years of age and under deaths decreased by 1.4 per million," noted the National Institutes of Health.

Such efforts have led to substantial decreases in unfortunate poisoning incidents. In fact, child poisoning deaths in the U.S. have dropped by a whopping 73% since 1972. That doesn't mean the job is already done.

"Nearly eight out of 10 poisonings occurred in the home," said CPSC Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric. "Please take the time to store cleaning supplies, laundry packets, button batteries, and drugs out of children's reach or in locked cabinets. If you see it lying around, a child can grab and swallow it."

In a recent study, researchers looking at child poisoning cases in children under five years old between 2005 and 2018 found opioids contributed to a staggering 47.3% of the deaths. This grim finding also highlights just how much the opioid epidemic has been affecting children.

Given the increase in unintentional child poisoning deaths, the CPSC has urged caregivers to take extra care of their kids. This includes taking simple but important measures like keeping medications safely stored away in cabinets, discarding unused medicines properly and keeping items like laundry packets and cleaning supplies away from children's reach.

Batteries also pose hazards for kids. Nearly a dozen kids died by ingesting button cell or coin batteries from 2017 to 2021. It's important to not allow kids to play with them and to make sure the batteries are secured.

Representation. A child playing with toys. FeeLoona/Pixabay