Author: Alison Johnson
When parents think about accidental poisonings at home, two rooms tend to come to mind: the kitchen or the bathroom. Many people overlook another common danger spot, the laundry room, safety experts say.
For example, one in 10 parents fail to close detergent containers after every use, according to the American Cleaning Institute, an industry group that promotes the safe use of cleaning and hygiene products. To young children, powdered detergent can look just like sugar.
And kids can easily mistake a newer product, miniature single-use detergent pods, for little candy bars with their brightly-colored or swirled packaging. From Jan. 1 to July 1, in fact, more than 1,400 children ages 5 and younger either swallowed or bit into the packets, based on calls to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. While none of them died, some suffered from dizziness, breathing problems and vomiting.
Compounding the problem is that more homes are designed with laundry rooms on the first floor, or close to living rooms or bedrooms, rather than tucked away in basements or upstairs closets. More machines also are front-loaders, which small kids can climb into more easily. And what kid wouldn't want to, given that the washers seem like a giant toy filled with water for splashing? Problem is, kids can drown in less than two inches of water.
Here are a few laundry room safety basics:
-- Keep detergents in their original containers and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. Don't ever store products on the floor. Explain to kids that detergents are not food and could be dangerous if ingested.
-- Wipe up any spills right away, and wash your hands to rinse off residue.
-- Have a rule that makes the laundry room off-limits as play space, including during games of hide-and-seek. Keep doors closed and preferably locked when the room isn't in use.
-- Keep the number for a local poison control center handy: 1-800-222-1222.
-- Close the doors of front-loaded washers and dryers and use a childproof lock to secure them. If you want to air the machines out, do so when children are out of the house or closely monitored.
-- Never leave irons plugged in, and don't leave them unattended while they're hot. They can easily tip over on a child. Consider buying a cordless iron with an automatic shut-off feature.
-- If you have laundry chutes, put childproof locks at every entrance point. To kids, chutes can look like giant slides.
And as always, remember that kids can get in trouble fast!