Poison alarm

Published: Monday | September 7, 2009

Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer

Health officials at the Bustamante Hospital for Children are urging the Government to impose strict legislation governing the storage of household chemicals and other harmful substances.

The call came against the backdrop of a 2005-2007 study conducted by officials at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, which shows that a large proportion of children are turning up for treatment of chemical ingestion.

"This is something that was already passed in the US in 1971 and we are still lagging behind in mandating that all wholesalers and retailers ensure that whatever they are distributing the chemicals in should have child-resistant container," said senior resident ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Kingston Public Hospital, Guyan Channer.

Channer was addressing persons at the second annual Kingston Public Hospital Clinical Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel yesterday.

According to Channer, the study showed that of the more than 11,000 patients admitted over the three-year period, chemical ingestion accounts for almost one per cent, nearly 110 patients, per year. There was equal gender distribution among the patients, he said.

Parents missing in action

Channer said the research indicated that a high proportion of the cases involved lack of supervision by very young mothers.

"When I look at the maternal age with respect to the patients, I realise that, on average, the age of the mother at the birth of the child was roughly 17 or 18.

"In almost every single patient, there is a problem with supervision ... . It's either the child was left home with a grandparent, a neighbour or someone who was not really responsible and as a result it is easy to understand how these children run into these problems."

The study showed that bleach, thinner, kerosene and medication accounted for the lion's share of cases.

Channer implored parents to pay keen attention to the storage of household chemicals and to label containers with potentially harmful substances.