Objective: To estimate the incidence of unintentional childhood injuries resulting from accidental poisonings in the Greater Athens area and to ascertain what fraction of this incidence could be linked to specified conditions, amenable to preventive interventions.
Methods: Prospective study over 12 months of 670 children hospitalized 224 hours for accidental poisoning. Site: Two pediatric hospitals and three smaller units in Greater Athens admitting children < or = 15 years old. Information was recorded in a semistructured questionnaire and the data were analyzed through simple stratification by one or more variables. Results Accidental poisoning requiring hospitalization > or = 24 hours was 50% higher among boys than among girls, peaked towards the end of the second year, and declined sharply after the fourth year of life with an estimated incidence of 500 cases per 100,000 among children > or = 5 years old. Cigarettes were the most common agent among infants, whereas medicinal products dominated all other childhood periods. Detergents, petroleum products, and pesticides each contributed about 10% of all poisonings with detergents peaking during the second year of life, petroleum products during the third year, and pesticides remaining constant, in proportional terms, throughout childhood. During the working hours of the day the incidence of poisonings was 80% higher than during the late afternoon and evening hours or the weekends, the times when both parents are usually at home; the excess was statistically significant. The presence of both parents at home in the afternoon hours was associated with an almost 50% reduction of hospitalized poisoning. The accessibility of products with poisoning potential was of major importance. Some specific conditions that led to the incident included storage of potentially poisoning products in the refrigerator, storage of such products in containers of innocuous products, without proper labeling, and parental errors in medication.
Conclusions: Unintentional childhood poisoning further reflects an interaction between inappropriate storage of consumer products and suboptimal supervision during the housekeeping hours of the day.