Are your art supplies toxic? Look for the ACMI seal

Have you ever walked into a room to find a child’s face covered in marker ink?

Fortunately, most common kids’ art supplies are nontoxic, and a quick call to the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 can put your mind at ease.

You can also get some peace of mind when you buy art supplies by looking for a seal from the ACMI—the Art and Creative Materials Institute. Most art supplies have one of two ACMI seals.

  • ACMI AP SealIf the product has the AP seal, which stands for approved product, that means it has been certified as nontoxic. Products with the AP seal do not have any materials in a large enough quantity to cause short- or long-term health problems. These include products like crayons and children’s markers. All products aimed at children fall into this category.
  • ACMI Cautionary Labeling SealIf the product has the CL seal, which stands for cautionary labeling, that means the product is safe if it is used according to the directions, but may cause some harm if used improperly—for example, if a child swallows it. These include products like glazes, spray paints and rubber cement. The ACMI recommends that children in grade 6 or lower not use these products.

Learn more about the ACMI seals on the organization’s website. Note that the ACMI only certifies products that are sold as art supplies, not office supplies or home improvement products.

Keep in mind that even though most art supplies are not poisonous, they may present a choking hazard. Keep small pieces out of the reach of young children, and keep an eye on young kids when they are using art supplies.

For more information on a few specific art supplies, visit these pages in our A to Z index:

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Eyes, nose, mouth, skin: Four ways poisons can enter the body

Woman with eye irritation
Many substances can be irritating to the eyes, and the poison center can help. Call 1-800-222-1222.

When you hear the word poisoning, what comes to mind? Is it a young child swallowing something, like a cleaning product?

While swallowing something, such as a medication or a household product, is the most common reason people call the poison center from home, there are several other ways potential poisons can enter the body. Fortunately, the Northern New England Poison Center is here to help you with all of them. Just call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

Here are the most common ways besides swallowing that poisons enter the body.

Getting something on your skin: Many things can cause symptoms if they come in contact with your skin. Some examples are:

  • Mild irritation from getting gasoline on your hands
  • Itching and burning from touching poison ivy
  • Severe chemical burns from products like drain cleaners

The poison center can give you over-the-phone advice for cleaning up safely and walk you through any other steps you may need to take at home. The poison specialist will also let you know whether you need to go to your doctor or the hospital.

Getting something in your eyes: The eyes are one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and many common products can be quite irritating or even harmful to your eyes. They may cause symptoms like:

  • Burning or stinging from breaking a glow stick open
  • Corneal abrasions from squirting laundry pod liquid
  • Sealing your eyelid shut from mistaking glue for eye drops

The poison center will let you know what to do in each of these cases. Often all you will need to do is rinse your eyes with warm water, and the poison specialist will walk you through the best way to do that. In other cases, the poison center may recommend another treatment, or may suggest you see your doctor or go to the hospital.

Breathing something in: Many fumes and gases can cause symptoms. These can be short-lived, like a headache from briefly inhaling the fumes from an aerosol (spray paint, hair spray), or more serious, from breathing in a dangerous gas like carbon monoxide.

If you are having symptoms after breathing something in, or if your carbon monoxide alarm is going off, get to fresh air. The poison center will let you know when it is safe to go back inside, and will let you know whether you need medical treatment.

Remember the poison center is here for you 24/7, offering quick expert advice in all kinds of situations. Just call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

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Are you at risk for a medication interaction?

Woman holding two pill bottlesDo you regularly take more than one medication?

The more medicine you take—including prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and supplements—the more likely you are to have a medication error or a harmful interaction between your medications.

The risks are especially high for older adults, who often take multiple medications. According to a study released this year, about 1 in 6 adults age 62 and older are at risk for a harmful drug interaction.

What can you do to decrease your risk?

  • Keep a list of all the medications you take, including supplements and natural products.
  • Share this list with your health care provider and your pharmacist at every visit.
  • Fill all your prescriptions at one pharmacy if possible. This makes it easier for your pharmacist to identify possible prescription drug interactions.
  • Keep track of your medication schedule. Consider using a written calendar and checking a box each time you take a medication.

The poison center is here to help. Call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511 if:

  • You took the wrong medication
  • You took too much of your medication
  • You took your medication at the wrong time
  • You aren’t feeling well after taking a medication
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Avoid poisonings when using flea treatments

Fleas: It’s a word no pet owner wants to hear. These little insects can cause your dog or cat lots of itching and scratching, and sometimes other health problems, such as hair loss, skin irritation, anemia, and tapeworms.There are many types of flea products: pills, collars, sprays, dips, shampoos, powders and spot-on products—a liquid you squeeze onto your pet’s skin between their shoulder blades or down their back. Talk to your veterinarian about which product is best for your pet.Whichever product you use, it’s important to take care when using flea treatments. Like any pesticide, a flea treatment can be harmful to your pet or family if not used correctly. Here are some tips for using flea products safely:

Cats scratching
CDC photo
  • Choose the right product for your type of pet, and your pet’s size. For example, a product intended for dogs may be harmful to cats, or a product for a bigger animal could be poisonous to a smaller one.
  • Read the product label before you use it each time and follow the directions exactly.
  • When possible, apply the product to your pet outdoors.
  • Keep your pet away from other animals and young children and avoid petting your pet until after the product dries.
  • Wash your hands after using a flea treatment product.
  • Store products up high, out of the reach of children and pets.

Watch your pet for side effects after you use the product. If your pet is acting unusual or seems sick call your veterinarian or contact the poison center—call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511. Contact the poison center for treatment advice if you or a family member has any symptoms such as upset stomach, rash or trouble breathing.If your pet has a bad experience after you apply a spot-on product, give your pet a bath right away. Use mild soap and rinse with a lot of water. Then call your veterinarian.

Fleas in the Home

While you will likely spot adult fleas on your pet or elsewhere in your home, flea eggs or larvae may be hiding throughout your pet’s environment, usually in places like carpeting, bedding and under furniture edges. So if your pet has fleas, it’s important to do what you can to clean your home as well. Take these steps: 

  • Vacuum every day to remove fleas and their eggs and larvae. Concentrate on carpets and cushioned furniture, any cracks or crevices in the floor and along the baseboards.
  • Steam clean your carpets. The hot steam and soap kill fleas, eggs and larvae.
  • Wash your pet’s bedding, and any family bedding your pet sleeps on, in hot, soapy water.
  • Use a flea comb to remove fleas, flea feces and dried blood from your pet’s fur. Thoroughly comb the neck and tail area where most fleas are.
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Watch out for brown-tail moth caterpillars

Brown-tail moth caterpillar
Brown-tail moth caterpillar photo via the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Brown-tail moth caterpillars are out in force in parts of Maine, particularly along the coast, and will likely remain a problem through the end of June.

These caterpillars have tiny poisonous hairs that can cause skin or lung irritation. You don’t have to touch the caterpillar to contact its hairs. They often get into the air when the caterpillar sheds.

Most people who develop symptoms get a small rash that lasts a few hours or days, but some people can have a severe rash that lasts for weeks. Breathing in the hairs can also cause severe lung irritation.

If you are having symptoms related to brown-tail moths, contact the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511. We can determine whether you need see your doctor or pharmacist or visit the emergency department.

There are some steps you can take to prevent contact with poisonous caterpillar hairs if you have them in your yard:

  • Dry your laundry indoors, rather than out on a line, so hairs do not get in your clothes.
  • When doing outdoor activities that might stir up hairs, such as mowing, raking, and weed whacking:
    • Perform tasks on a damp day with little wind, or spray down grass or plants with a hose. This helps keep the hairs from getting up into the air.
    • Wear a respirator, goggles, and long sleeves and pants.
    • Take a cool shower immediately after working, and wash your work clothes.

Get more information about brown-tail moths from the Maine Forest Service.

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Get expert advice in minutes, 24/7

If you have ever had to take a young child to the emergency room, you know that the process can feel like an eternity—driving to the hospital while worrying if your child is all right, registering at the emergency department and then waiting to see a nurse or doctor. By the time the whole trip is done, it may have taken hours just to find out, hopefully, that your child is fine and you can go home.

Clock ticking
Image by Kengo Preston.
(Creative Commons)

Imagine if you could get fast, expert advice without needing to leave your home—that you could have the answer you need in minutes over the phone rather than spending hours in an emergency department waiting room or exam room.

The Northern New England Poison Center provides just that. Nine out of 10 times that people call the poison center about young children, they can be treated at home over the phone. If you or your child took the wrong medication or too much medication, or swallowed something that wasn’t food or drink, contact the poison center to get fast first-aid advice that can save you time and money. In many cases the poison center will call you back to check on you and your child and see if you have any questions.

The NNEPC is committed to making it as easy as possible for you to reach us. Not only can you call us on the national poison center help line, 1-800-222-1222, you can also get quick advice from the same poison experts by texting the word POISON to 85511, or by chatting online on our website.

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Time to clean out old medications and hazardous waste

While you’re giving your home a thorough spring cleaning, it’s a good time to get rid of things you no longer need, like old medications. In fact, there is a great opportunity this month to dispose of medications that have expired or that you no longer need.

DEA medication take-back logoThe DEA is holding a national drug take-back from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, 2016. Police stations and other locations across the country will be accepting medications for disposal. Getting rid of medications at a take-back event can help prevent poisonings of young children and pets, keep medications out of the environment, and help prevent them from being abused.

Visit the DEA’s site to find a take-back location near you.

Also remember to get rid of your household hazardous waste—items that contain chemicals that can be harmful to health or the environment. If the label says the product is toxic, corrosive, reactive, explosive, ignitable or flammable, it is likely hazardous waste and cannot be thrown in your regular trash.

Household hazardous waste can include electronics, certain types of batteries, paint, mercury-containing products such as thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs, pesticides, gasoline and certain cleaning products. Many towns have special hazardous waste collection days when you can get rid of these items safely.

CFL bulb
Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain some mercury, and should be disposed of as hazardous waste. Photo from SFHazWaste, Creative Commons.

The best way to find out how to dispose of these items is to call your town office.

You can find more information regarding disposal in your state online:

There are also many alternatives to using hazardous products. The EPA’s Safer Choice Standard identifies products that are still effective but safer for people and the environment.

If you have questions about medications or household products, contact the NNEPC. We are here to help 24/7. Just call 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

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Stay safe while spring cleaning

The weather is getting warmer and that means it’s time for spring cleaning. Open the windows and let the fresh air in!

Cleaning supplies

While you’re making your living space tidy, remember to use cleaning products safely.

  • Read the directions on the label of any cleaner you use. Pay attention to warnings about ventilating the area by keeping the windows open, keeping children and pets away.
  • Do not mix cleaning products. One common mistake is mixing bleach with a product that contains ammonia. This produces chloramine gas, which can be extremely irritating to the eyes and lungs. The product label will tell you if it contains ammonia.
  • Store products in their original containers. Avoid transferring them to milk jugs, soda bottles or other containers, because someone may accidentally drink the cleaner.
  • Keep the cap on cleaning products as much as possible while using them, and put products away as soon as you are finished. Store cleaning products up high, out of the reach of children and pets.

Remember the poison center is here for you 24/7. Whether your child swallowed a cleaning product, or you got one on your skin or in your eyes, help is just a quick call away at 1-800-222-1222. You can also chat online or text POISON to 85511.

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Poisonings affect people of all ages

People of all ages call the poison centerEvery day poison centers receive calls from and about people of every age, from infants to people in their 80s and beyond. Some types of poisoning are more common at specific ages, while others are common at every stage of life, such as medication errors.

Medication errors happen when someone accidentally uses medication in a way other than how it is intended. For a young child, it could be a parent or caregiver giving the wrong medication or too much for the child’s weight. A teen or adult might take someone else’s medication by mistake. For an older adult, it could be taken a morning medication in the evening.

Here’s a look at other common reasons people call the poison center for different ages:

  • Children 3 years old and younger: Most calls in this age group are because children are crawling or walking around and putting things in their mouths or spilling things on themselves.
  • Preschool and elementary-aged children: This age group is less likely to get poisoned, but may swallow things or put things on their skin while testing boundaries or responding to dares.
  • Teenagers: Teens may become poisoned while trying to get high or in attempts to harm themselves. These reasons for poisoning continue into adult ages, and most calls about these types of poisonings come from hospitals looking for poison center advice in treating the patient.
  • Adults: Adults may breathe in chemicals or get them on their skin at work. This can happen in almost any profession, not just industrial jobs.
  • Older adults: As people age they may start to take multiple medications, often prescribed by different doctors. Poisonings sometimes happen when a person takes a medication that interacts with another medication or with a health condition.

These are just some of the reasons you may find yourself in need of the poison center. It just goes to show, no matter what your age, whether you’re a parent or not, it pays to have the poison center number handy. Store 1-800-222-1222 in your phone today. And remember you can also contact us 24/7 by live online chat.

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Why do parents call the poison center?

Kids act fast, but fortunately so do poison centers. A call to the poison center is your instant connection to an expert, which can be especially handy if you’re a parent. We can provide peace of mind within minutes.

Every year, about 2 out of every 5 calls to the poison center are about children 5 years old or younger.

Pediatric Exposures by Age
Among young children, 1- and 2-year-olds are the most likely to make their parents or caregivers pick up the phone and call 1-800-222-1222. Children this age are exploring their environment, often by putting things in their mouths. You might be surprised by all the things kids can get into, but we’ve heard nearly everything.

Here’s a look at what kids were most likely to get into at their home or someone else’s in 2015.

Pediactric Exposure Substances Pie Chart
Calling the poison center can also save you a long wait in the emergency room. In 19 out of 20 cases, young children who get into possible poisons in the home can be safely treated right there with poison center advice – saving you lots of time.

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