Upstate News

December 13, 2006
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate Poison Center experts warn of hazards in homes decorated for the holidays.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Experts from the Poison Center at SUNY Upstate Medical University are issuing a warning to parents and others caring for small children to be mindful of the potential for poisoning in a home decorated for the holidays.

“The holiday season brings to mind magical visions of twinkling ornaments adorning the tree and children filled with natural curiosity, but the combination of children in a state of constant excitement and pre-occupied parents may transform a normally safe home into a haven for unintentional poisonings,” said Gail Banach, the poison center’s education director.

The Poison Center has issued the following list of potential holiday hazards:

Poinsettia: While this holiday favorite is considered non-toxic, the white milky liquid from the stem can cause skin irritation.

Holly: Holly berries are quite toxic and ingestion of 20 berries can be fatal to a child.

Jerusalem Cherry: All parts of this plant are toxic and can be harmful if swallowed.

Mistletoe: Sometimes called the “kiss of death,” mistletoe leaves, stem and berries are all toxic.

Bubble lights: These intriguing holiday lights contain methylene chloride, which if ingested can be harmful.

Snow sprays: Although the substance that creates the faux snow is non-toxic, the propellant used to express the product from the container is toxic.

Vintage Christmas tree ornaments: Many of these older, now popular items, contain lead, which is harmful to children.

Rounding out the list are snow globes and silver ball cookie confections, which contain .05 percent silver and thus are required by the Food and Drug Administration to be listed for use as a decoration, not for consumption.

Aside from holiday decorations, holiday parties also hold the potential for poisonings. “Alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and cigarette butts should be kept out of the reach of children,” Banach said. “Often during the holidays, children awake before their parents and a half-filled glass of liquor left out from a holiday gathering can be an invitation to danger for children.

“It’s important for parents to understand that most poisonings are unintentional, they’re not meant to happen, but they do,” she said. “Parents can reduce the risk of poisonings by placing and keeping poisons out of the reach of children.”

If a poisoning is suspected, Banach says parents should contact a Poison Center by calling 1-800-222-1222. Poison experts are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Poison Center at SUNY Upstate Medical University is a regional certified center of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

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