Tip of the Day: Spring cleaning for a healthier, safer home

Consumer Reports News: March 31, 2007 08:08 AM

With spring in full bloom, cleaning the house probably seems even less appealing then ever. But spending a little time on essential chores and checks will make your home look good and ensure the well-being of your family.

While Poison Prevention Week has passed, that doesn’t mean you can neglect basic safety measures, especially if you have young children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year there are about 30 deaths and nearly 1 million incidents in which children under 5 are exposed to potential poisons. Kids aren’t the only ones at risk. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals managed more than 116,000 calls to its Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) hotline in 2006, many of which were related to common household items.

Here’s how to keep your kids out of harm’s way:
•    Store food and nonfood items separately to avoid leakage and to reduce any confusion among items. As we reported in a story last year, some household cleaners look an awful lot like fruit beverages.
•    Keep all chemicals in their original containers; never transfer them to soda bottles or other containers. This move will avoid any confusion, and the labels often have important first-aid information
•    Lock up cleansers, detergents, bleach, and other harmful products. Use locks or safety latches on cabinets and drawers where you store them.
•    Keep medicines off bedside tables and install a lock on the medicine cabinet. You can also store medications in a childproof, locked box that you keep on a high shelf outside the bathroom.
•    Never store medicines that are in containers without childproof caps inside an easily accessible bag, like your purse, backpack, or attaché case.
•    Always buy supplements and over-the-counter drugs in child-resistant packaging. Some can be lethal for children, especially vitamins containing iron.
•    When you discard expired drugs, don't just empty the contents into the garbage— keep them in their child-resistant packaging.
•    Give away poisonous houseplants (poinsettias, dumbcane, dieffenbacia, philodendrons, calla lilies, mistletoe, and hyacinths, to name a few), or ask friends to take care of them until your child is older. Keep all remaining plants well trimmed, so a child can't reach them.
•     Avoid using bug sprays, carpet cleaners, and air fresheners in areas where toddlers spend a lot of time crawling around. Keep spray cans in locked cabinets.
•    Store gasoline, oil, charcoal starter fluid, insecticides, antifreeze, paint, car polish, and other hazardous substances behind locked cabinet doors or in an out-of-reach spot.
•    Post a copy of emergency telephone numbers (including those of your children's pediatrician and the toll-free poison-control center, 800-222-1222) and contact numbers for family members near all phones. Inform other caregivers of the emergency numbers—and emergency procedures—before you leave the house. Find the poison control center nearest you at http://aapcc.org/findyour.htm.Helen A.S. Popkin

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