ABOUT 10 years ago when the Committee on Accident Prevention was created, the Academy focused national attention on accidents as the No. 1 cause of death in childhood and a major contributor to disability, disfigurement and crippling. One of the most spectacular features of this Committee's program is its efforts to prevent and treat poisoning in children, as demonstrated by the amazing growth of poison control centers. Through these community facilities, valuable data on the occurrence and frequency of childhood poisoning have been brought to light. This information has documented an impression held for a long time by many pediatricians: namely, that the creativeness of modern chemistry is both a boon and a bane, the latter all too often in the case of toddlers from about 1 to 4 years of age. Legislation has always been one of the most important means of accident prevention, including accidental poisoning. For example, an early and very effective law aimed at reducing lye burns and deaths from corrosive poisoning in children was the Federal Caustic Poisons Act of 1927, which was developed with the support of organized medicine, under the able leadership of Chevalier Jackson, Sr.
But as new products and new hazards increased, new legislation was required for greater protection. The Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act of July 1960 grew out of the concerted efforts of organized medicine and the industries concerned. This law now adds a new dimension to health protection from a wide variety of hazardous products found in or about the home, in addition to the 12 substances formerly labeled "Poison" under the old Caustic Poisons Act.
Hazardous products include those that are flammable, toxic by ingestion, inhalation or absorption, explosive, caustic, irritant or strong sensitizers. Because parents often are not aware of the danger of such products, the articles are readily available to young children for unsafe investigation. Jensen and Wilson reported, in a study of 100 cases of poisonings in children, that "in 53 cases the poison was not in its usual place, either because it was in use, because persons other than the parents had left it out, or because the parents themselves were careless."
Recent mortality data reveal that there are at least 1,400 deaths at all ages from solid and liquid substances, with about 450 deaths in children under 5 years. Last year 35,000 cases of accidental poisoning were reported to the National Clearinghouse from 182 centers in 37 States. The National Health Survey has estimated that 822,000 ingestions of toxic substances occur each year.
Both the householder and physician will benefit from the requirements of this new law. Information to prevent accidents from household products and to offer appropriate first aid when accidents occur must now be readily available to users and physicians. The hazardous substance must be revealed, together with such precautionary warnings and measures as are necessary for safe use and handling of such products.
- Copyright © 1961 by the American Academy of Pediatrics