E-cigarette poisonings increase in Utah

Wednesday , August 13, 2014 - 4:01 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY - Poisonings related to e-cigarette exposure are increasing in Utah.

In the first six months of this year, the Utah Poison Control Center said it handled 65 cases for poison exposures related to e-cigarettes. Last year, it managed 75 cases.

The Poison Control Center and experts at America’s 55 poison centers on Tuesday issued a statement commending Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, for his introduction of the Child Nicotine Poison Prevention Act of 2014. The bill urges the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission to enact rules requiring safer, childproof packaging for any liquid nicotine sold to consumers.

In Utah, the poisoning cases have been fairly evenly distributed across the state, said Marty C. Malheiro, coordinator of outreach education at the Poison Control Center.

A small container of liquid nicotine, used for electronic cigarettes, can be poisonous and deadly if ingested, said Barbara Insley Crouch, the center’s executive director. An e-cigarette user typically refills the device by manually adding the potent chemicals.

"Nicotine is very poisonous," Insley Crouch said. "The electronic cigarette products have highly concentrated nicotine solutions, but the concentrations vary and there are no federal regulations. You can even buy it in bulk in gallons and make your own. In some of the fillers, as little as one drop could be deadly."

The liquid, extracted from tobacco and tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings ranging from cotton candy to bubble gum, can be enticing to a small child, Insley Crouch said. They also smell good.

Symptoms of a toxic dose start out with nausea, vomiting, irritability and agitation, and progress to seizures, low blood pressure and loss of consciousness, Insley Crouch said.

Weber-Morgan Health Department health educator Anna Guymon said greater public awareness is needed to prevent more poisonings.

"Nicotine is an addictive, dangerous drug. Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of nicotine and yet these products look appealing and the message is that ‘it’s just water vapor,’ " she said.

Lewis Garrett, director of the Davis County Health Department, said his department also shares the same concerns about the potential for nicotine poisoning in children who might be attracted to these products because of the bright colors and flavors that often resemble candy.

"The Davis County Board of Health regulation adopted back in February requires childproof caps for e-juice manufactured or sold locally in Davis County," Garrett said.

Insley Crouch said requiring child-resistant closures on e-cigarette products is an important step in reducing the risk of nicotine poisoning in children.

“Any nicotine in the hands of a child is dangerous,” said Insley Crouch. "All nicotine products including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquid should be stored out of reach of small children."

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