JIS News

Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that bleach remains the number one substance in accidental poisoning, especially among children under five years old.
A further breakdown of the information shows that over a five-year period, from 2001 to 2005, four substances – bleach, kerosene, pharmaceuticals and pesticides – have accounted for over 80 per cent of accidental poisoning. While the percentage has varied over the years, bleach has remained the leading causative agent of accidental poisoning on all occasions.
Project Manager for the Caribbean Poison Information Network (CARPIN), Yvonne Reid told JIS News that although the number of incidents of accidental poisoning was trending downwards, bleach remained the substance causing the most problems.
She pointed out that there was a litany of factors that contributed to the problem. Bleach, she explained, is used to disinfect bottles and containers, in addition to being used to clean around the home. In some cases the substance is used improperly and this results in accidental poisoning, while in other cases bleach may be poured into a container, which is used to store drinks and, this too results in accidental poisoning.
Then there is the situation where flooding may disrupt the supply of clean water and persons use bleach to treat water and do so incorrectly.
“If not stored properly, this harmful substance is accessible to children. Therefore you can appreciate why this will account for the problem that exists,” Ms. Reid pointed out.
Additionally, she said that most of the incidents of accidental poisoning in children occur in the home, hence the need to ensure that parents and caregivers store harmful products properly. “Things that can be harmful should be locked away from children,” she emphasized.
With many of the cases of accidental poisoning occurring in children less than five years old, Ms. Reid said that CARPIN felt it necessary to increase awareness about the problem.
“We see it as a very important part of our role at CARPIN to provide information as to how individuals may prevent these occurrences, because we feel that prevention by education is the best way to reduce the incidence of poisoning,” she stressed.
To this end, Poison Prevention Week will be observed from May 28 to June 4. Now in its second year, the theme is, ‘Poison Awareness, Everybody’s Business’. The week will begin with a church service at the Bethel Baptist Church on Hope Road, starting at 10:00 a. m.
On May 29 and May 30, CARPIN will hold the final judging of its song/deejay, dub poetry, poster and skits competitions, which were all launched in March under the theme, ‘Poison Out of Reach is Out of Danger’. This will take place at the Edna Manley School of the Performing and Visual Arts.
CARPIN will take the message to the streets on May 31 and June 1 as part of its regular community day outreach programme. Although the organization has received many requests for visits for these two days, selected schools will be targeted.
The week will culminate with CARPIN’s first annual scientific conference, which will be held over a two-day period, June 3 and 4 at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston. Speakers are expected from the USA and Brazil as well as other countries. Jamaican speakers from various spheres of the science sector are also expected to share top billing.
To foster further involvement of persons, some public sessions will be held. “There is a small contribution from the public, which is $300 per day when they come in,” Ms. Reid pointed out.
An awards banquet will also take place at the hotel after the first day of the conference, where awards will be given for the various competitions.
Guest speaker at the banquet will be the Executive Director of the National Health Fund, Rae Barrett. In 2005, 80 per cent of reported accidental poisoning occurred in children under the age of five years. A closer look at the statistics reveals that children under the age of two years accounted for 367 cases out of the total number of 536 reported cases. There were 1,200 cases of accidental poisoning last year, excluding food poisoning.