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Precautions for preventing poison exposures when maintaining cars (1/22)

January 22, 2009
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Cold weather car maintenance can lead to poison exposures from a number of common auto products, warns the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) in a recent press release. Windshield cleaner fluid and antifreeze both contain substances that can be deadly if ingested and pose an increased risk for children and pets.

Windshield cleaner fluids typically contain methanol, which is extremely toxic if ingested. Blindness or death can be the consequence of ingesting even small amounts.

Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a toxic liquid with a sweet taste. Following ingestion, the symptoms of ethylene glycol poisoning start with intoxication and vomiting and may end in kidney failure if treatment is not sought.

A tragic result of methanol poisoning is permanent blindness through destruction of the optic nerve. Toxic effects take hours to start, however, and effective antidotes can often prevent permanent damage. The sweet taste of antifreeze increases the likelihood of large ingestions by young children. Any product that is spilled should be cleaned-up immediately. Like children, pets may be attracted to antifreeze’s sweet taste and become severely poisoned.

“You should call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 if you think you have a poisoning emergency,” advises AAPCC Board Member Edward P. Krenzelok, PharmD, director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. “Time can be crucial in such situations to avoid permanent damage.”

The AAPCC suggests the following precautions:
  • Keep potential poisons in their original containers.
  • DO NOT use food containers such as cups or bottles to store household and chemical products.
  • Keep all chemical products in a locked cupboard that is out of the reach of children. Never let children play with the containers.
  • Never cover up or remove labels. Keep all safety information.
  • Make sure that child-resistant closures are working properly.
Poison control centers around the country are prepared to respond with information and treatment advice about poison exposures. To reach a local poison center call 1-800-222-1222. More information about poisoning prevention may be found on the AAPCC’s Web site at http://www.aapcc.org.

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