JIS News

Director of Disease Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Health (MOH), Dr. Sonia Copeland, has issued an appeal to parents and caregivers to exercise vigilance in the packaging, use and storage of chemicals, to reduce the high incidence of poisoning in Jamaican children.
The call came as the nation observes National Poison Prevention Week, May 23 to 28.
“We have a high incidence of accidental poisoning in children under age five and of the over 600 cases reported annually, about 70 per cent of those cases occur in children under age five and 60 per cent in children under age two,” Dr. Copeland told JIS News.
She said that bleach, pharmaceuticals (medications) and pesticides account for most of the accidental poisoning cases in children. In 2009, 435 or 63 per cent of the 695 incidences of poisoning reported were related to these substances.
With increased care and caution, she said the incidence of poisoning can be remarkably reduced, while noting that toddlers learning to walk or creep and who are exploring their environment are the most vulnerable.
“No parent is going to deliberately leave poisonous, caustic or corrosive substances around for a two year old to drink. But the way we are packaging these things sometimes diminishes our alertness as it relates to whether it is something that be drunk or it is a chemical,” she stated.
Dr. Copeland bemoaned the practice of improper storage of chemicals and its contribution to accidental poisoning in children. She urged adults to desist from storing chemicals in soft drink and water bottles, or inappropriate containers that children associate with food and drinks. Such containers, she insisted, should be clearly labelled and kept out of children’s reach.
She also encouraged frequent monitoring and careful placement of other poisonous pesticides.
“For pesticides such as rat poison, this is very colourful to the child. Some are pink, some are blue and, if left around, you can be putting your toddler and sometimes your pet at risk of being poisoned,” she pointed out.
Dr. Copeland also stressed that leaving pharmaceutical items unattended can be disastrous.
“It behoves the adult, as the duty bearer, to just put these things far out of the reach of the child. These too, cannot be left on counters or within easy reach of children. Can you imagine a toddler eating one or two anti-hypertensive tablets? This is really meant for an adult who has high blood pressure. These things can be disastrous,” she emphasized.
The Ministry of Health will be partnering with the Caribbean Poison Information Network (CARPIN) on a number of activities, in observation of Poison Prevention Week 2010, under the theme: “Poison Prevention: Everybody’s Business”.
The week of activities began with a Church Service on Sunday, May 23, at the Calvary Gospel Assembly, 129 Sundown Crescent, Kingston 10. A Public Forum titled, “Poison Proof Your Home”, is set for May 25 at the Calvary Gospel Assembly and several exhibitions are planned for the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, University of Technology and the Tom Redcam Library.
Educational activities will also take place in schools, Daycare Centres, Children’s Homes, and Health Departments, islandwide.

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