Groups Push for Poison-Proofing Homes and Schools to Prevent Poisoning Emergencies

An expert on the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms today advised students and their teachers to be on their guard against harmful substances that may put their health in danger.

Speaking at a forum organized by the EcoWaste Coalition to mark the National Poison Prevention Week,  Dr. Nerissa M. Dando, Associate Professor and Toxicology Consultant of the National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC UP - PGH), reminded some 300 students of the Manila Science High School to be cautious as poisons come in various containers, forms  and sizes.

In line with the theme “Poisons in the School: Prevention is the Solution,” Dando, who is also the President of the Society of Adolescent Medicine of the
Philippines, underscored the old saying “prevention is better than cure” to stress the importance of avoiding exposure to poisonous substances in a proactive manner than to deal with it later.

“Poison prevention education is essential to protect our children from unwittingly exposing themselves to hazardous products and wastes.  We can avoid poisoning emergencies that may even lead to severe injury and death by becoming aware of actual and potential hazards in our surroundings and taking concrete steps to poison-proof our homes, schools and workplaces,” said Dando, a clinical toxicology expert.

For her part, Maria Eva S. Nacion, Principal of the
Manila Science High School, stated that “
by learning and acting together, we can make our faculty members, students and non-teaching staff more safety-conscious to prevent poisoning incidents, which can put our children’s health and their future at risk.”   

Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect cited s
ome of the more common poisons in the school setting that can make children ill if ingested or inhaled, including lead-containing paint chip and dust, schools supplies laced with hazardous ingredients, laboratory chemicals, busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps, and cleaning agents such as chlorine granules, oxalic acid crystals and sodium hypochlorite (aka “clorox”).  

Seemingly harmless stuff like paracetamol, vitamins, lipsticks, colognes, perfumes and sanitizers can become a poison and cause serious injury if used in a wrong way, Dizon also warned.

Dando explained that children are more sensitive and susceptible to the harmful effects of hazardous substances than adults because their body defense systems are still developing, they consume more food and water and breathe more air in proportion to their body size, and their hand-to-mouth behaviour can expose them more to environmental contaminants.

To poison-proof our homes and schools, the groups school administrators and teachers, as well as parents, to observe the following:

1.  Handle, use, store and dispose of products safely.  Seek out eco-friendly products that do not contain hazardous substances.

2.  Read the product labels carefully and follow the safety instructions.  Pay attention to the hazard pictograms and precautionary warnings.

3.  Keep medicines, bleaching, cleaning and laundry products, insecticides, paints, varnishes and thinners, and car maintenance materials out of children’s sight and reach in a securely locked cabinet or area.

4.  Return all products to their proper storage immediately after use.  Do not leave them unattended.

5.  Never place poisonous products in beverage and food containers such as drinking cups or softdrink bottles.  Keep them in their original containers.

6.  Never reuse pesticide and other chemical containers for storing food and water.

7.  Do not mix household cleaning products together.  Combining bleach and cleaning products with ammonia, for example, can form dangerous fumes.

8.   Wash children’s toys and other play things regularly to minimize the risk of your child coming into contact with lead-containing dust and other environmental pollutants.

9.  Teach kids how to safely use art materials such as crayons, water colors, glues and other adhesives and remind them not to eat or drink while doing their art assignments.

10.  Whenever there is question of poison exposure, please call the NPMCC or consult a medical doctor nearest to you.  Don’t make your child vomit.  Keep the following numbers of the NPMCC by your phone: at
 02-5241078, 5548400 local 2311 or 0922-8961541.

The National Poison Prevention Week is observed every fourth week of June as per Proclamation No. 1777, series of 2009 to increase awareness on the preventive aspects of poisoning prevention at home, school, work and the general environment.