Poison control center sees number of children poisoned by e-cigarettes 'skyrocket'

SKYROCKETING REPORTS

Kids who get into the liquid in electronic cigarettes are at risk of getting very sick.

Banner Good Samaritan Poison & Drug Information Center has seen a spike in the number of Arizona children poisoned by electronic cigarettes.

In 2011, the hospital reported four people with nicotine exposure due to e-cigarettes, including calls to the Poison Center and ER visits. Two of them involved children.

By 2013, that number went up to 24 – including 13 children.

"It's skyrocketed because it wasn't really an issue a couple of years ago," said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, Co-Director of the Poison Center.

The hospital told us that in the last three years, 23 children were exposed to nicotine poisoning because of e-cigarettes.

The hospital also reports 21 adults were exposed because of e-cigarettes.

Common accidents include the liquid splashing or leaking while they're using the e-cigarettes, according to the hospital.

The most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, sweating and seizures, which could lead to death.

HIGH NICOTINE CONCENTRATION

Dr. Frank LoVecchio said nicotine is known to be toxic to people.

"You are getting very low doses when you smoke these things," he said, "but if you had a massive dose, it could kill you."

And, the concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes and their liquid refills can be very high, he said. Some e-cigarettes don't contain any nicotine, but others contain up to 500 milligrams.

It only takes about 30 to 60 milligrams of nicotine to send a child to the emergency room.

CHOCOLATE, BUBBLE GUM AND COTTON CANDY FLAVORS

Children are especially drawn to the colorful liquid refills, which are often candy-flavored.

You can buy e-cigarettes that taste like chocolate, bubble gum and cotton candy, in addition to other tobacco flavors.

"The refills have us very worried," said LoVecchio. "It seems pretty easy for [children] to have, maybe, a couple of drops of the liquid refill and for them to die."

Children don't even have to swallow the liquid to be hurt by it. The nicotine in it can be easily absorbed through the skin.

"Little kids can get toxic just by getting some on their skin," LoVecchio said.

CHILD SAFETY CAPS

Today, there are a few hundred different brands of e-cigarettes on the market. The FDA does not regulate what's in them.

"Hopefully, people aren't believing that it is not dangerous," LoVecchio said. "It's not regulated what exactly is in there, and the ones that have been tested show some dangerous chemicals."

Dr. LoVecchio is calling for child safety caps for the refill bottles. And, he urges users to make sure refills and e-cigarettes are stored out of the reach of children at all times.

"It seems inevitable that a child somewhere in the United States will probably ingest quite a bit and get very sick," he said.

Banner Good Samaritan Hospital's Poison Drug & Information Center reported exposure to e-cigarettes on next page.

2011:

4 total exposures

2 children

2 adults

2012:

10 total exposures

4 children

6 adults, including leakage of liquid nicotine or some c/o side effects from using the product-nausea and dizziness

2013:

24 total exposures

13 children

11 adults, including leakage into mouth or liquid splashed into eye; some c/o side effects-dizziness/nausea

2014 (through Feb. 2, 2014)

6 total exposures

4 children

2 adults

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