Upstate News

December 15, 2002
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Tis the season to beware of holiday poisonings, say experts at the Central New York Poison Center

Central New York Poison Center experts issued a warning today asking parents and others caring for small children to be mindful of the potential for poisoning in a home decorated for the holidays.

“The holiday season brings to mind magical visions of twinkling ornaments adorning the tree and children filled with natural curiosity, but the combination of children, in a state of constant excitement and pre-occupied parents may transform a normally safe home into an unintentional poisoning,” said Gail Banach, the poison center’s education director.

The Central New York Poison Center has issued a listing of potential holiday hazards:

Poinsettia: This holiday favorite can be harmful only if ingested in large amounts.

Holly: Holly berries are quite toxic and ingestion of 20 berries can be fatal to a child.

Jerusalem Cherry: All parts of this plant are toxic and can be harmful if swallowed.

Mistletoe: Sometimes called the “kiss of death,” mistletoe leaves, stem and berries are all toxic.

Bubble lights: These intriguing holiday lights contain methylene chloride, which if ingested can be harmful.

Snow sprays: Although the substance that creates the faux snow is non-toxic, the propellant used to express the product from the container is toxic.

Older, vintage Christmas tree ornaments: Many of these older, now popular items, contain lead, which is harmful to children

Rounding out the list are snow globes and silver ball cookie confections, which contain .05 percent silver and thus is required by the Food and Drug Administration to be listed for use as a decoration, not for consumption.

Aside from holiday decorations, holiday parties also hold the potential for poisonings. “Alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and cigarette butts should be kept out of the reach of children,” Banach said. “Often during the holidays, children awake before their parents and a half-filled glass of liquor left out from a holiday gathering can be an invitation to danger for children.

“It’s important for parents to understand that most poisonings are unintentional, they’re not meant to happen, but they do,” she said. “Parents can reduce the risk of poisonings by placing and keeping poisons out of the reach of children.”

If a poisoning is suspected, Banach says parents should contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. The Central New York Poison Control Center is staffed with poison information experts 24 hours day, seven days a week.

The Central New York Poison Control Center is a regional certified center of the American Association of Poison Control Centers and is affiliated with University Hospital of the State University of New York Upstate Medical University.

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