Children are most often affected by poisoning. Most examples of poisoning are accidental ingestions of products or pills found in the home. Several examples are listed below. Children can grab and ingest or swallow a toxic substance in just a few seconds.
Iron: Over-the-counter vitamins with iron may contain 325 mg of ferrous sulfate per tablet. A lethal dose is 300 mg/kg, so only 10 tablets may kill an infant. Most containers have 100 tablets.
Lead:This heavy metal may be found in plumbing pipes, paint (in old houses), poorly glazed pottery, and the atmosphere from industry and leaded gasoline. Lead imparts a slightly sweet taste to flaking paint, which may attract children to ingest it. Ingested or inhaled lead accumulates in bone, blood, and soft tissues, but toxic effects are primarily the result of neurologic impairment from demyelinating injury to neurons, especially in children. Other heavy metals, such as arsenic and mercury, also can cause neuropathy.
Chlorinated Hydrocarbons: Insecticides such as DDT are minimally toxic to humans, but they accumulate in the environment, enter into the food chain, may be ingested by humans, and can lead to CNS depression. The serious long-term environmental consequences of accumulations of these chemicals, particularly for birds, has led to banning the use of DDT in the U.S.
Organophosphates: Insecticides such as parathion and malathion are acetyl-cholinesterase inhibitors that do not persist long in the environment but are capable of producing more acute disease including paralysis, arrhythmia, and respiratory failure.