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Unintentional poisonings pose high risk in low-income and immigrant Latino communities

LatinaLista — Most people think poisoning deaths are stuff of murder mysteries and spy novels but the sad fact is that more people, ages 25 to 64-years-old, die of unintentional poisonings than get killed in car accidents.

It’s something to always remember but especially during this 50th anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week (March 18-24).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), death rates for unintentional poisonings have risen steadily since 1992. One major source of accidental poisonings is from taking too much medicine. It’s a problem especially among children.

Between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children (

These are statistics that should be especially alarming for the Latino community in light of a 2011 Texas Woman’s University study that found Latinos knowing how to properly store medicine and household cleaners depended on their acculturation level and education. The results were not encouraging.

In the study, Acculturation in Hispanics and childhood poisoning: Are medicines and household cleaners stored properly?, the researchers discovered a series of interesting revelations:

  1. Less acculturated Latinos were over 4 times more likely to store medicines incorrectly
  2. Latinos with a high school education or less were over 3 times more likely to improperly store cleaners.
  3. With each additional child in the household, the risk for improper storage of cleaners increased by 44%

The researchers recommended two distinct ways to keep unintentional poisonings from happening in the Latino community: make educational materials culturally relevant and take advantage of social networks to get the message out.

Hoping to reach as many in the Latino community as possible with the message that poisonings are preventable, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends keeping in mind the following:

Poisonings are Preventable
Accidental poisonings are preventable. Re-seal pesticides, other household chemicals, and medications and keep them away from children.

Call First!
The Poison Help line (800-222-12220) connects you to experts at your local poison center 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Help is available in more than 150 languages. Program the poison help line number into your phone and post it near your phone.

Use and Store Products Safety!
Store all household products up high, out of children’s reach, in locked cabinet. Use child resistant safety latches. Read the label first and follow product instructions.

Spread the Word!


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