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Am J Public Health. 1989 Jul;79(7):853-6.

Accidental ingestions of oral prescription drugs: a multicenter survey.

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US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Directorate for Health Sciences, Washington, DC 20207.


Accidental ingestion of oral prescription drugs by children under age five continues to be a public health problem. A telephone survey of 1,866 ingestion incidents reported to nine poison control centers was conducted in the spring of 1986. Accidental ingestion occurred most often with a two-year-old child (42 per cent) in their own home (82 per cent). Thirty-five per cent of the toxic drugs ingested at home belonged to someone other than the immediate family, most often a grandparent. Toxic drugs were more often out of their usual storage location and in non-child-resistant prescription packaging, a nonprescription container, or in no container. Twenty-two per cent of all child-resistant packages were non-functional. Overall, at least 61 per cent of all medications had no child-resistant barrier at the time of ingestion. Accessible storage locations such as the kitchen counter, table top, or top of a dresser or bedside table greatly increased the risk of accidental ingestion. These results suggest the need for effective child-resistant packaging that is easier for all adults to use.

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