Upstate News

March 9, 1999
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

CNY Poison Control Center now Recommends Activated Charcoal for Treatment of Home Poisonings — Center Lists Product as a ‘Must Have’ in Every Home Medicine Cabinet

The Central New York Regional Poison Control Center is recommending that activated charcoal be used as a treatment for home poisonings. Along with Syrup of Ipecac-medication used to induce vomiting-activated charcoal is now listed by the center as a “must have” for home medicine cabinets.

“Activated charcoal is one of the most effective first-line therapies for potentially toxic ingestions,” said toxicologist Dr. Christine M. Stork, director of the Central New York Regional Poison Control Center. “We recommend that all households obtain activated charcoal for such an emergency.”

The Poison Control Center’s recommendation for the use of activated charcoal follows a move by the Food and Drug Administration to make the substance available for purchase by the general public. The substance has long been used by hospitals as an effective treatment for poisonings.

A specially processed form of charcoal, activated charcoal particles act like a sponge to absorb the toxic substance ingested. The charcoal is then passed through the body and is eliminated in the feces.

“If a child gets into medicine cabinet and ingests some pills the Poison Control Center may recommend the use of activated charcoal. The parent would add water or soda to the charcoal and have the child drink the mixture through a straw while in transport to the hospital,” Stork said.

Under no circumstances, Stork said, is an individual to take or administer activated charcoal without direction from a poison control center or medical personnel. “Activated charcoal is not suitable for all poisonings and may therefore compromise one’s condition if taken inappropriately,” Stork said.

The amount recommended for consumption is based on the child’s weight. The Poison Control Center suggests that one bottle be purchased for each child at home.

“A bottle of activated charcoal may sit unopened in your home for years, which is what we all hope for,” Stork said. “But having it on hand, gives parents and caregivers immediate access to one of the best defenses against poisonings.”

Activated charcoal is currently available at Wal-Mart pharmacies, Kinney Drugs and Eckerd Drugs among others and costs about $7 a bottle in granular form.

The Central New York Regional Poison Control Center, which is affiliated with State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, is a 24-hour telephone service managing poison emergencies and providing poison information. Registered nurses who are poison information specialists handle more than 22,000 calls annually.

The Poison Control Center also offers a full complement of educational programming, such as training opportunities that include videos and CD-ROMs developed by the center. Counties covered by the Poison Control Center are St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer, Oswego, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Madison, Tompkins, Cortland, Chenango, Tioga and Broome.

In case of poison emergency, the Poison Control Center can reached at 1-800 252-5655 or in Syracuse at 315-476-4766.