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Poison Control Centers' Data Puts E-Cigarette Exposure Risk in Perspective


The journal Pediatricsrecently reported that “there were more than 8,200 calls to US poison centers regarding exposures to liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes among children younger than 6 years of age from January 2012 through April 2017, averaging 129 calls each month or more than 4 a day.” (here) As I previously noted (here), annual exposures (which were 1,548 according to the Pediatrics article) should be considered in appropriate perspective. 

While the journal article acknowledged that e-cigarette exposures “decreased by about 20% from 2015 to 2016,” its senior author called for additional regulation.  If children’s exposure to products should guide regulatory priorities, the following chart from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (2016 report available here) may be instructive.

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Non-Pharmaceutical Exposures Reported To Poison Control Centers in the U.S., 2016




Product CategoryNumber Among Children Under 6 YearsNumber Among All AgesDeaths Per 100,000 Exposures*




Cosmetics, personal care products136,004180,0653
Household cleaners111,445179,82813
Foreign bodies65,86490,6671
Pesticides33,45877,57322
Plants27,56545,15024
Arts, crafts, office supplies20,09627,3190
Deodorizers17,39821,26614
Essential oils (clove, etc.)13,26418,9970
Tobacco11,35813,3190
Cigarettes6,3316,699--
E-Cigarettes2,0752,827--
Chewing tobacco1,2201,357--
Other1,7322,436--
Foods, additives, spoilage10,83933,9099
Alcohols9,56222,289117
Chemicals9,32833,91080
Gasoline, other hydrocarbons8,82127,80776
Bites, venom6,70846,98915
Paint, strippers6,60112,2380
Batteries5,4839,65141
Adhesives, glue4,6929,6220
Fumes, vapors3,67331,337214
Fertilizers2,7594,59080
Other35,85994,02444




All540,777980,55026

* All Ages

Of the half million exposures among children under 6 years of age recorded by poison control centers in 2016, 45.8% involved cosmetics, personal care products or household cleaners, while e-cigarettes accounted for just 0.4%. 

Looking at product-related deaths per 100,000 exposures, rates were highest for fumes and vapors (which included carbon monoxide) and for alcohols, but there were no deaths recorded for tobacco exposures, including e-cigarettes.

Public health generally and children’s health in particular may benefit from regulatory reform that is keyed to demonstrated risk exposure.



Original author: Brad Rodu
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