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Poisonings and Other Health Hazards Associated With Use of Detergents

Jay M. Arena, MD
JAMA. 1964;190(1):56-58. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03070140062009.
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BECAUSE they are such necessary and familiar household items, cleaners are not usually regarded as hazardous substances. However, in 1962, 1,727 incidents involving ingestion of detergents, as well as soaps and cleaners, in children under 5 years of age were reported to the National Clearinghouse for Poison Control Centers. This represented 4.2% of all the reported accidental ingestions in this age group. Although severe toxic effects occur infrequently and fatalities are rare, these are still rather significant statistics for a potential cause of injury that is largely preventable by handling and storing these products properly to keep them out of reach of children.

Unfortunately, the terms soap and detergent are synonymous to many laymen, and I know of an incident, for example, in which significant injury occurred from the misuse of a detergent instead of a soapsuds enema. To prevent this type of erroneous substitution, the physician should give very


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