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National Poison Prevention Week
March 21-27, 2021

National Poison Prevention week is an opportunity to learn about the leading causes of poisonings and key strategies on how they can be prevented. According to Parachute, Canada's National Charity dedicated to injury prevention, poisoning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury hospitalizations for children 14 and under and approximately 4000 Canadians die each year due to poisoning (1). These statistics do not include the number of poisonings due to illicit drug use.

Over the past 10 years, the number of calls to poison centres and emergency response services has increased due to several issues that have caused changes in the trends associated with poisoning (2). The main changes to these trends are the introduction of new products such as laundry detergent pods, vaping and e-cigarettes, the legalization of cannabis, and the opioid crisis.

Laundry pod poisoning has been found in several age groups. Children under 7 and older adults with cognitive impairments were found to have confused the bright colored pods as candies or something edible. The manufactures of these products have made efforts to reduce these types of poisonings by making some pods less colorful, putting warnings on the packaging, and developing child-resistant containers. Teens created a social media trend to challenge others to upload videos of themselves intentionally ingesting the pods which resulted in several poisonings.  Facebook and YouTube took measures to remove these videos from their platforms.

Vaping fluid poisoning may be related to the liquid coming in flavours such as cherry, chocolate, and cotton candy which is attractive to young children. Nicotine can have toxic effects in children and, in severe cases, can lead to death if not treated promptly.

Every poison centre in Canada has reported increased exposures to cannabis since its legalization in 2018. Children and adults might mistake foods containing cannabis for regular foods (e.g., gummy bears, brownies, lollipops, sweet drinks, and cookies). Additionally, because the effects of edibles take approximately 30 minutes, they may continue to eat more. Cannabis poisoning can lead to respiratory distress and admission to intensive care units (3).

In Canada, opioid poisonings increased 27 percent from 2013 -2017. (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2018) In 2018, approximately 13 individuals died daily as a result of opioid use for a total of 4,614 deaths in Canada. (PHAC 2019). Contamination of illicit substances with fentanyl and ultra-potent opioids has been a contributing factor.


Steps you can take to prevent unintentional poisonings:

  • Keep medications, vape fluids, and other poisonous products in their original child-resistant packaging, stored in a high and in a locked location. Do not store in areas accessible to small children.
  • Never refer to medication or cannabis products as vitamins, candy, or treats.
  • Avoid consuming cannabis in any form in front of children. Besides children the fact that children imitate adults' behaviour, impaired parents may not be able to make the best decisions for themselves or their children.


Alberta Poison Control Center Number 1-800-332-1414.
Call 911 for medical emergencies.

This article was written by Carla Spanier, Clinical Supervisor at the Palliser PCN.