AUSTINTOWN Poison scare raises concern
Nearly 80 residents across Mahoning and Trumbull counties received critical care for poisonings in 2000.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- The hospitalization of five children who inhaled a mixture of bleach and drain cleaner in a township home highlights the need for further education on possible effects of household products, poison control officials said.
"The idea is to be thinking," said Carol Fisher of the Central Ohio Poison Center in Columbus. "It seems so common sense, but we move very quickly and our environment has so many new products. If we rely on packaging and labeling, that can make everyone very vulnerable."
The children, ages 5, 7, 11, 12 and 13, were expected to fully recover from injuries, said a spokeswoman at Forum Health Northside Medical Center. Fire officials said today they think some of the children were attempting to make a bomb.
Four of the children were in fair condition Wednesday morning, while the 13-year-old remained in guarded condition.
According to Austintown Fire Department records, the children were short of breath and suffering from chemical burns when fire officials arrived at 72 Kenmar Court about 9:20 p.m. Monday. Officials haven't said where the cleaners came from or if the children were supervised. Austintown Police Lt. Joe Giampetro said the matter would be investigated.
Dangerous mixture: Even though many household cleaners provide labels instructing users not to mix them, the Central Ohio Poison Center gets calls every day from residents who do mix, said William Wolowich, the center's managing director. He said many cleaners are acids while others are bases. Mixing these "opposite" chemicals releases a gas that can take your breath away or cause more severe burns and lung irritations, he said.
From Mahoning County last year, the Central Ohio Poison Center received nearly 2,000 calls. Half of the calls involved children younger than 5, and an additional 300 involved older children and teens. In Trumbull County, residents called the center to report 1,550 poisonings, with 850 regarding children younger than 5 and 130 involving older children and teens.
Across both counties, 79 people received critical care at health-care facilities.
Being aware: Fisher said parents and teen-age caretakers of young children should be constantly aware of the chemicals brought into a home and where they are stored. Also, she said, try to look at the products through the child's eyes. Do lamp oils and radiator fluid look like sports drinks? Do moth balls look like marshmallows? Does a liquid cleanser resemble apple juice?
Older children should be taught to be aware that chemicals that are unsafe to swallow might also be unsafe for the skin or to inhale, Fisher said.
A 1999 report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers offers cases in which children died from household products: Degreaser killed a year-old child; tire cleaner claimed the life of an 18-month-old; a 15-year-old died after inhaling butane; and a 16-year-old died after taking stimulants and sniffing hairspray.
Hospital officials declined to release names or genders of the children involved in the Austintown occurrence, but fire department personnel identified four of the five children: Alyssa Faber, 7, and Ryan Mierzwa, 12, both of 82 Kenmar Court, Donivan Stevens, 12, of New Road and Brian Boerio, with no recorded age or address.