Caustic Alkali Ingestions by Farm Children

  • Edmonson, M. Bruce

Liquid lye drain cleaners responsible for a childhood epidemic of household ingestions in the early 1970s are now marketed in drastically reduced alkali concentrations and packaged in child-resistant containers. However, farm and industrial caustic agents continue to be sold without poison prevention safeguards, as exemplified by dairy pipeline cleaners (liquid NaOH/KOH concentrations 8% to 25%) used routinely on dairy farms. In this study, the ingestion epidemiology of farm/industrial v household caustic alkali products was compared in a population that included farm children. Forty-three children were admitted from 1973 to 1983 to four rural hospitals for nonintentional caustic alkali ingestion. Farm products constituted 23% of all products and 43% of all drain/pipe cleaners ingested. Dairy pipeline cleaners were the single most common causative substance, injuring ten toddlers (mean age 1.6 years), perforating the esophagus in two. Liquid dairy pipeline cleaners were usually ingested in tiny amounts from nonchild-resistant containers or drinking glasses at evening milking time. In contrast, household drain cleaners were associated with fewer ingestions, with all serious complications related to highly concentrated products not available on the consumer market after 1975. Poison prevention strategies successfully applied in the 1970s to household drain cleaners should be redirected and modified for farm-related caustic alkali agents. Preventive measures are suggested by the highly specific pattern of injury and the small, defined population at risk.


JOURNAL: Pediatrics. 1987; 79(3): 413-416.

Note: Pediatrics.

NLOM ID#: 87146101 .

Publication #: 87146101

This document was extracted from the CDC-NIOSH Epidemiology of Farm Related Injuries: Bibliography With Abstracts, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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