Many of us may not be familiar with the term "hydrocarbons," but chances are you have them scattered throughout your house, and a new study by researchers at Nationwide Children's Hospital published in the June 2013 issue of Pediatrics shows that more than 100,000 injuries were reported in children due to hydrocarbons between 2000 and 2009.
Simply put, hydrocarbons are chemicals that are stored as liquids, but evaporate as they are poured out. They are found in many household cleaners and, especially during warmer months, are more accessible to children in the form of things like gasoline, oil for Tiki torches, and lighter fluid. They are most dangerous when children swallow and choke on the chemical, breathing it into their lungs, leading to pulmonary injury.
"Parents filling lawn mowers with gas cans or lighting the grill for backyard cookouts need to be especially mindful of the containers these hydrocarbons are in, and where they are stored," says co-author Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., M.A., a principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Inquisitive children mistakenly identify hydrocarbons as a food or beverage and attempt to ingest the poison, which is the most common way children are exposed to the chemical."
During the 10-year study period, 66,000 calls were made to regional poison centers and more than 40,000 emergency department visits were reported regarding exposure to hydrocarbons in children under the age of 5. Researchers also found that these incidents most frequently occurred in boys and children between 1 and 2 years of age.
"The good news is that the number of injuries has declined significantly between 2000 and 2009 because of changes in packaging laws and public awareness," says study co-author Heath Jolliff, D.O., associate medical director for the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's. Unfortunately, more children are poisoned from hydrocarbons because of incidents at home, demonstrating a greater need for preventive education for parents.
Follow these safety tips from Dr. Jolliff and Dr. McKenzie to keep your kids away from dangerous chemicals this season.
For more information about the study, and to find out which hydrocarbons pose the greatest risk to your kids, watch the video below from Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Courtesy of Nationwide Children's Hospital
Originally featured on Nationwide nationwidechildrens.org and reprinted with permission.
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