Dublin | 20 April 2012
The Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald launched Ireland’s first National Poisons Awareness Day.
Developed by the National Poisons Information Centre at Beaumont Hospital, the day is intended to increase awareness of the dangers of poisons, especially to very young children, of the steps to take to avoid those dangers and what to do if someone has taken something which could be poisonous.
To mark the day the Minister was presented with a storybook, “Say NO to Poisons!”, when she attended Early Childhood Ireland’s conference in Dublin. The book has been developed by the National Poisons Information Centre at Beaumont Hospital with the assistance and support of the staff and children of County Carlow VEC Childcare Centre, the Health Service Executive and Early Childhood Ireland.
The book is one element in a learning and teaching resource being made available to daycare centres and preschools throughout Ireland. It is attractively illustrated by Louise Osborne.
Speaking at the launch NPIC Director Dr. Edel Duggan said that every year the Centre received over 4,000 enquiries concerning young children who had been involved in a poisoning incident.
“Our aim,” she said, “is to educate young children about potential poisons both inside and outside the home, and to help them understand that they should always ask an adult if something is safe to eat or drink.”
Dr Duggan said many people had been involved in developing the new education resource, including Martina Osborne of County Carlow VEC’s Adult and Further Education Office and Nicola Cassidy of the NPIC, who had instigated and driven the project.
As part of its national awareness day NPIC is also keen to ensure that parents and all those with responsibility for looking after children know exactly what to do if they suspect an incident has occurred.
“A quick phone call to our information centre will ensure swift access to the information required. Very often a child will not need to visit a hospital or doctor and we can provide reassurance. But where urgent action is required we can give that information too,” Dr Duggan said. “We would urge everyone to store our number in their phone – 01 809 2166. The line is open from 8 am in the morning to 10 pm at night, seven days a week.”
Fiona McDonnell, HSE Early Years Service said reducing risk of harm from accidental injury was a major area of focus within child health services. The HSE was delighted to support this initiative, she said. “We hope that children, parents and care workers will all benefit from the health education messages provided as part of this programme.
Early Childhood Ireland’s CEO, Irene Gunning, emphasised that young children are naturally curious and could inhale or swallow
poisonous substances without realising the danger. “This can be anything from household detergents to prescribed medicine, which in a child’s mind could be colourful sweets or goodies,” she said.
“The safety of children in our care is top of the agenda for our members and we are happy to do our bit by spreading the word through this story book and by giving the “Say No to Poisons” campaign a platform at our conference. Following simple basic safety rules will help encourage a reduction in the numbers of young children ingesting harmful or poisonous substances, which would be a positive outcome all round.”
Further information on National Poisons Awareness Day is freely available on www.poisons.ie.