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Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney and the Department of Health Services encourage residents to remember that “Children Act Fast...So Do Poisons!” during National Poison Prevention Week, March 20-26.  Some 30 children die every year due to accidental poisonings, and approximately 1 million phone calls are placed to Poison Control Centers annually by adults seeking help when children have swallowed something harmful.

“Many poisonings happen when adults are distracted for just a few moments by the telephone, doorbell, or something else,” said McNerney, the father of two young children.  “Unfortunately, it only takes a few moments for a small child to grab and swallow something that could be poisonous. This is why adults must make sure that household chemicals and medicines are stored away from children at all times and that they know what to do if kids swallow something that they are not supposed to.”

 If parents suspect that a child has been poisoned from a medicine or household chemical, they should call 1-800-222-1222 for the Poison Control Center. This national toll-free number works from anyplace in the U.S. 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.  In New Jersey, this free emergency hot line is operated by the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES).

Children under the age of 5 are in stages of growth and development in which they are constantly exploring and investigating the world around them. Unfortunately, what children see and reach, they usually put in their mouths. It is this behavior to which parents must be alerted. As youngsters' mobility, ingenuity, and capabilities increase, they can reach medicines and household chemicals wherever stored.  These products should be locked up where possible, out of the child's reach - even when safety packaging is used. Adults should never leave a medicine or household chemical product unattended while in use; children act fast and can get hold of a product and swallow it during the short time while the adult is answering the telephone or doorbell. Advise the caregiver to take the child (or product) with them to answer the phone or doorbell.

Although labeling requirements and educational programs have had some effect in reducing the number of childhood ingestions, significant numbers of children are still being poisoned by ingesting household products that can be hazardous, such as medicines (sometimes brought into the child's home by grandparents or other visitors or accessed by a child visiting a home), cleaning products, and solvents. Child-resistant packaging, if used properly, provides an additional barrier to help prevent ingestions.

Interested residents can obtain “Read the Label First! Protect Your Kids” from the Department of Health Services.  This brochure includes safety tips for the use of pesticides and household cleaners.  To request a copy, please send an email to or call 201-634-2704.  Please be sure to include your name and mailing address.


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