Fewer kids drinking household poisons

  • 25/07/2016
Fewer kids drinking household poisons

The National Poison Centre says better monitoring of hazardous substances is helping to reduce the number of children hospitalised from poisoning.

Forty percent fewer children are being hospitalised after ingesting poisonous substances than almost decade ago. 

It's something Environment Minister Nick Smith has had first-hand experience in. Dr Smith says he once accidentally used paint stripper as a mouthwash after a tradie left some in his flat's bathroom.

"The injury burned my throat and vocal chords, leading to my only ever hospital treatment."

He says the paint stripper wasn't labelled properly.

"We need people to be careful not to casually leave chemicals around and not to store them in unlabelled containers" he says.

The latest figures, from 2014, show just 96 kids were hospitalised from poisoning that year, compared to 163 in 2006.

"Under-fives are most at risk and their hospitalisation rates have dropped by 30 percent, from 32 per 100,000 to 23," says Dr Smith.

"The rate for five- to 14-year-olds has more than halved, from 12 to 5.2 per 100,000. Another good result is in the 15- to 24-year-old group, where hospitalisations have fallen from 23 to 12.3 per 100,000."

The National Poison Centre's Lucy Shieffelbien says they're constantly on the look-out for new problem substances.

"If we saw a new product come on to the market and we were seeing lots of calls, and children were being injured quite significantly, then we would raise the alarm."

Ms Shieffelbien says preventative measures such as changing packaging or education programmes are also reducing the number of kids poisoned.

"We're not having to send as many children to hospital because we're not having to deal with high-end injuries. Approximately 70 percent of our calls can expect to be dealt with at home."

Dr Smith says Housing New Zealand and the Environmental Protection Authority are working together to ensure state homes have adequate storage facilities for dangerous products.