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Mercola Natural Health Articles

Pediatric Drug Poisoning Is on the Rise


Aside from causing a wide variety of side effects in those who take medications, the widespread routine use of pharmaceuticals also pose a serious risk to children who get their hands on them.

As of 2016, nearly half of the U.S. population were on at least one medication.1,2 Twenty-four percent used three or more drugs, and 12.6% were on more than five different medications.3 According to the 2016 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 73.9% of all doctor’s visits also involved drug therapy.4

As one would expect, drug use dramatically increases with age. As of 2016, 18% of children under 12 were on prescription medication, compared to 85% of adults over the age of 60. While this trend is troubling enough, with prescription drugs now being a staple in most homes, the number of children suffering accidental poisoning is also on the rise.

Medications Pose Serious Risks to Young Children

According to a 2012 article5,6 in The Journal of Pediatrics that reviewed patient records from the National Poison Data System of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 453,559 children aged 5 or younger were admitted to a health care facility following exposure to a potentially toxic dose of a pharmaceutical drug between 2001 and 2008.

In that time, drug poisonings rose 22%. Ninety-five percent of cases were due to self-exposure, meaning the children got into the medication and took it themselves, opposed to being given an excessive dose by error.

Forty-three percent of all children admitted to the hospital after accidentally ingesting medication ended up in the intensive care unit, and prescription (opposed to over-the-counter) medications were responsible for 71% of serious injuries, with opioids, sedative-hypnotics and cardiovascular drugs topping the list of drugs causing serious harm. As noted by the authors:7

“Prevention efforts have proved to be inadequate in the face of rising availability of prescription medications, particularly more dangerous medications.”

Keep All Drugs in Childproof Containers

If you’re older, you may recall your parents or grandparents would have a lockable medicine cabinet where drugs were stored. Few people keep their medications in locked cabinets or boxes these days, failing to realize the serious risk they pose to young children.

The hazard is further magnified if you sort your medications into easy-open daily pill organizers rather than keeping each drug in its original childproof container.

A 2020 paper8,9 in The Journal of Pediatrics, which sought to “identify types of containers from which young children accessed solid dose medications during unsupervised medication exposures” found 51.5% involved drugs accessed as a result of having been removed from its original childproof packaging.

Remarkably, in 49.3% of cases involving attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications and 42.6% of cases involving an opioid, the drug was not in any container at all when accessed. In other words, the child found the pill or pills just laying out in the open. In 30.7% of all cases where a child ingested a drug, the exposure involved a grandparent’s medication. As noted by the authors:

“Efforts to reduce pediatric SDM [solid dose medication] exposures should also address exposures in which adults, rather than children, remove medications from child-resistant packaging.

Packaging/storage innovations designed to encourage adults to keep products within child-resistant packaging and specific educational messages could be targeted based on common exposure circumstances, medication classes, and medication intended recipients.”

Teen Drug Overdoses Are Also on the Rise

While infants are notorious for putting anything and everything in their mouth, making them particularly vulnerable to accidental drug exposures, drug overdoses, particularly those involving opioids and benzodiazepines, are also becoming more prevalent among teens with access to these drugs.

According to a 2019 study10 published in the journal Clinical Toxicology, 296,838 children under the age of 18 were exposed to benzodiazepines between January 2000 and December 2015. Over that time, benzodiazepine exposure in this age group increased by 54%. According to the authors:11

“The severity of medical outcomes also increased, as did the prevalence of co-ingestion of multiple drugs, especially in children ages 12 to <18 years. Nearly half of all reported exposures in 2015 were documented as intentional abuse, misuse, or attempted suicide, reflecting a change from prior years …

Medical providers and caretakers should be cognizant of this growing epidemic to avoid preventable harm to adolescents, young children, and infants.”

A similar trend has been found with opioids. A 2017 study12 looking at prescription opioid exposures among children and adolescents in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015 found:

“Poison control centers received reports of 188,468 prescription opioid exposures among children aged<20 years old from 2000 through 2015 … Hydrocodone accounted for the largest proportion of exposures (28.7%), and 47.1% of children exposed to buprenorphine were admitted to a health care facility (HCF).

The odds of being admitted to an HCF were higher for teenagers than for children aged 0 to 5 years or children aged 6 to 12 years. Teenagers also had greater odds of serious medical outcomes … The rate of prescription opioid-related suspected suicides among teenagers increased by 52.7% during the study period.”

Commonsense Precautions

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes and supports the Up and Away and Out of Sight campaign, which centers “around several simple, data-driven actions that parents and caregivers can take to prevent medication overdoses in the children they care about and care for.”13 These commonsense precautions include the following:14

  • Store your medications (and supplements) in their original packaging in a place your child cannot reach. Don't store medications in your nightstand, purse or end table where little hands are likely to explore and find them. Any medication stored in the refrigerator should be in childproof packaging. Also make sure drugs are safely stored in areas your child visits frequently, such as a grandparent’s house or a baby sitter.
  • Put all medications away after each use.
  • Make sure to relock the safety cap after each use.
  • Teach your children about medicine safety; never tell them medicine is “like candy” in order to get them to take it.
  • Remind guests to place bags, purses and coats that have medicine in them in a safe place while visiting.

What to Do in Case of Accidental Drug Exposure

Be sure to keep the Poison Help number in your phone, and make sure your baby sitter or caregiver has it. In the U.S., the Poison Help number is 800-222-1222. If you suspect your child has taken a prescription or OTC medication, even if he or she is not yet exhibiting symptoms, call the Poison Help line immediately.

If you’re unsure what medication your child may have taken, call 911 or the emergency number in your area for transportation to the nearest medical facility. Although your child may appear fine in the initial minutes, this can rapidly change. You want to start treatment as soon as possible to reduce the risk of permanent damage or potential death.

Remember to bring with you the names of any medications your child may have accidentally ingested, as well as any medications your child has taken in the past 24 hours as prescribed by their doctor, any allergies they have, and any changes or symptoms you may have observed.

Unfortunately, symptoms of a medication overdose can vary widely, depending on the drug, dosage and age of the child. That said, symptoms of an overdose may include:15


Vomiting or diarrhea

Drooling or dry mouth


Pupils that grow larger or shrink


Loss of coordination and/or slurred speech

Extreme fatigue

Yellow skin or eyes

Flu-like symptoms

Unusual bleeding or bruising

Abdominal pain


Rapid heartbeat

Should your child exhibit any of the following symptoms, call 911 (in the U.S.) immediately:16

Won’t wake up

Can’t breathe

Twitches or shakes uncontrollably

Displays extremely strange behavior

Has trouble swallowing

Develops a rapidly spreading rash

Swells up in the face, including around the lips and tongue

Opioid Epidemic Takes Toll on Pediatric Population

It’s crucial to realize that many drugs can be life threatening to a young child, even in low doses. This is particularly true for opioids and buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid dependence. As noted in a 2005 paper17 on opioid exposure in toddlers:

“Ingestions of opioid analgesics by children may lead to significant toxicity as a result of depression of the respiratory and central nervous systems. A review of the medical literature was performed to determine whether low doses of opioids are dangerous in the pediatric population under 6 years old.

Methadone was found to be the most toxic of the opioids; doses as low as a single tablet can lead to death. All children who have ingested any amount of methadone need to be observed in an Emergency Department (ED) for at least 6 h and considered for hospital admission.

Most other opioids are better tolerated in ingestions as small as one or two tablets. Based on the limited data available for these opioids, we conclude that equianalgesic doses of 5 mg/kg of codeine or greater require 4 to 6 h of observation in the ED.

Data for propoxyphene and all extended-release preparations are limited; their prolonged half-lives would suggest the need for longer observation periods. All opioid ingestions leading to respiratory depression or significant central nervous system depression require admission to an intensive care unit.”

Similarly, a 2006 paper18 on the adverse effects of unintentional buprenorphine exposure in children noted that:

“Buprenorphine in sublingual formulation was recently introduced to the American market for treatment of opioid dependence. We report a series of 5 toddlers with respiratory and mental-status depression after unintentional buprenorphine exposure.

Despite buprenorphine's partial agonist activity and ceiling effect on respiratory depression, all children required hospital admission and either opioid-antagonist therapy or mechanical ventilation …

The increasing use of buprenorphine as a home-based therapy for opioid addiction in the United States raises public health concerns for the pediatric population.”

The take-home message here is that as drug treatment increases and becomes ever-more prevalent among all age groups, the risk of unintentional exposure increases as well. Toddlers will stick just about anything in their mouth, and young children will often not recognize there’s a difference between pills and candy.

As parents and caregivers, we simply must take the necessary precautions to keep all medications in a safe place, well out of reach of curious hands. Failure to safeguard your medications can have profoundly tragic consequences, so please, do not take this matter lightly.

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Top Five Tips to Avoid Dangerous Chemicals


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are among the most destructive chemicals in our environment. Exposure to them is linked to growth, neurological and learning disabilities, obesity, diabetes, male and female reproductive dysfunction, birth defects, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.1

EDCs are not just harmful — they are also found almost everywhere and hard to avoid. They lurk in food packaging, nonorganic food, nonstick cookware,2 detergents, cosmetics,3 lotions, products with fragrance, antibacterial soaps,4 medicines, toys,5 fabrics, carpets, furniture, construction materials treated with flame retardants, pesticides and more.6

When an endocrine-disrupting chemical exerts permanent and even transgenerational changes to fat cells it is sometimes called an obesogen. Experts believe obesogens encourage the growth of fat cells and fat accumulation through metabolic and appetite alterations that increase the number and size of adipose cells.

Examples of obesogens are bisphenol-A and parabens, and other obesogens may be found in flame retardants, pesticides and other chemicals. But the good news is there are at least five ways you can reduce your exposure to EDCs and obesogens, according to Dr. Leonardo Trasande, who wrote about EDCs for Medscape.

Top Five Tips to Avoid Dangerous Chemicals

Here are my five tips, adapted from Trasande’s article:

1. Beware of certain cookware — Nonstick pans contain perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, chemicals that slow the metabolism rate and cause weight regain.7 Cast iron and stainless steel cookware are good alternatives. Use glass to store your food and reusable storage bags at home and to bring food home from the grocery store.

2. Fight indoor pollution — Flame retardants used in mattresses, carpets, furniture and electronics accumulate in household dust, impairing thyroid function. Open windows and use a wet mop to diminish them. Check if your upholstery has added flame retardants.8

3. Eat organic and avoid canned foods — Organic food is free from GMOs and pesticides, which may disrupt the thyroid, impair cognition and cause cancer.9 Choose grass fed, humanely raised meat and dairy products.

Canned foods may contain bisphenols, which are estrogenic and make fat cells larger. They persist in the environment, double Type 2 diabetes risk and likely pose toxicity to embryos.10 Don't use pesticides on your lawn, and remove shoes when you enter your house.

4. Don't microwave, and avoid packaged goods — A "microwave safe" label is misleading because microscopic polymers break down and get into food.11 Processed and packaged foods contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, pesticides and other obesogens. Phthalates in food packaging and take-out containers can impair lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and increase weight.12

5. Avoid vinyl and plastic — Use a cloth shower curtain that can be machine washed. These stay cleaner and last longer than vinyl. Replace luggage and backpacks with products made of organic blend canvas.

Obesogens and Obesity Are Linked

Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. Between 1980 and 2010 the rate of obesity in the U.S. doubled and, worldwide, the rate of obesity tripled.13 Obesity in children is especially booming, almost always condemning them to life as obese adults.14 Obesity, because of its association with Type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease, costs the U.S. approximately $200 billion a year.

The common belief that increased caloric consumption and reduced exercise cause the obesity epidemic does not explain the phenomenon, says research in the journal Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. Rather, people may be predisposed to obesity from exposure to obesogens in the womb, write the researchers.15

"Adult mice exposed to TBT [tributyltin, an obesogen] in utero displayed increased lipid accumulation in adipose depots, livers and testis and treatment of adolescent or adult mice, rats, goldfish and zebrafish led to increased fat deposition and hepatic steatosis ...

TBT continues to be found in house dust and in seafood, and at least one study shows increased ponderal index in human infants with the highest prenatal TBT exposure."

Other chemicals have similar effects, write the researchers, such as the fungicides triflumizole and tolylfluanid and the plasticizer diethylhexyl phthalate.16 Obesogens do not just increase the fat levels immediately seen in test animals: The fat augmentation properties may persist for generations, the researchers write.17

"Prenatal exposure to environmental obesogens can produce lasting effects on the exposed animals and their offspring to at least the F4 generation. Recent results show that some of these transgenerational effects of obesogen exposure can be carried across the generations via alterations in chromatin structure and accessibility."

Apparently, obesogens not only can program organisms to accumulate fat; they can program their offspring to do the same.

What Causes the Fat Accumulation to Occur?

Researchers note in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology that cells exposed to an obesogen did not accumulate more fat than unexposed cells but differ in another way: they "did not respond to normal signalling processes." Specifically, write the researchers, the cells:18

" … expressed reduced levels of GLUT4 accompanied by lower glucose uptake. They produced lower levels of adiponectin mRNA and protein and showed elevated levels of molecular markers of inflammation and fibrosis. The ... cells were impaired in their respiratory function, measured in vitro and, as might be expected, contained fewer mitochondria."

Like the research in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology Research, a paper in Pediatric Research seems to confirm that obesogenic effects are seen transgenerationally. Fetal exposure to phthalates, which are obesogenic, is correlated with obesity in the exposed children, write the researchers.19

"Higher concentrations of urinary MEP, MBzP, and ΣDEHP [phthalates] metabolites in pregnant mothers were associated with increased odds of their children being overweight or obese ...

Higher prenatal MEP concentrations were consistently associated with increased BMI, waist circumference, and percent body fat in children between 5 and 12 years of age … onset of puberty did not affect our findings. In addition, unlike previous studies, our results were quite similar between boys and girls."

There Are More Obesity Links to Obesogens

Perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are obesogenic, have also been linked to obesity in the scientific literature. A 2018 study in PLOS Medicine found:20

"In this diet-induced weight-loss trial, higher baseline plasma PFAS concentrations were associated with a greater weight regain, especially in women, possibly explained by a slower regression of RMR [resting metabolic rate] levels.

These data illustrate a potential novel pathway through which PFASs interfere with human body weight regulation and metabolism. The possible impact of environmental chemicals on the obesity epidemic therefore deserves attention."

A 2018 study in Environmental Research on the exposure of pregnant women to phthalates also concluded:21

"Exposure to certain phthalates during pregnancy may be associated with long-term weight change in women. More studies on the effects of phthalate exposure during pregnancy on women's long-term health are required."

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Linked to Diabetes

Diabetes is a major public health concern in the U.S. and other countries and endocrine disrupting chemicals contribute to the problem. Research in the journal Environmental Health Perspective finds "positive associations between exposure to BPA and BPS and the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, independent of traditional diabetes risk factors."22

Bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS) are common EDCs. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic and many canned foods, and metal jar lids have BPA in their linings.23 BPS, a BPA analogue, was thought to be safer than BPA, but research now reveals the two have similar risk profiles.24 Researchers in Environmental Health Perspectives wrote:25

"This study is one of the few prospective studies on the association between exposure to BPA and the subsequent development of type 2 diabetes and the first one on diabetes that relies on repeated urinary bisphenols measurements to assess exposure, which is crucial given the short half-life of BPA in the body.

To the best of our knowledge, this is also the first study to investigate exposure to BPS in relation with the risk of developing diabetes. Our results suggest associations between diabetes risk and both BPA concentrations and BPS detection in urine."

Research in rats that was published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2017 apparently duplicates the EDC and diabetes findings.26

"Overall summary estimates indicated significant positive associations between BPA and fat weight ... Findings from our systematic review suggest that early-life exposure to BPA may increase adiposity and circulating lipid levels in rodents ...

It is important to note that although this review focused on BPA, other chemicals with putative obesogenic effects have also been identified.

For instance, the BPA analog bisphenol S and several other chemical classes have been identified as potential obesogenic chemicals; these include phthalates, organotins, perfluorinated alkyl acids, brominated flame retardants, (non)-dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls, and several pesticides."

The Endocrine Society Also Questions EDC Safety

The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest organization of endocrine clinicians and scientists, has also researched the risks of endocrine disrupting chemicals. The society says it:27

"defines an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) as 'an exogenous chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that can interfere with any aspect of hormone action' ...

EDCs are found in many different products, including plasticizers, personal care products, and pesticides. Furthermore, EDCs such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins are found in environmental contaminants.

Humans are constantly exposed to EDCs on a daily basis by ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact, and with this constant exposure has come detrimental effects on reproductive health.

Specifically, EDCs are known to decrease fertility in both male and female animal models and they are associated with subfertility/infertility in humans.

These chemicals can affect the production of steroids (steroidogenesis), ovarian follicle development and growth (folliculogenesis), and development and maturation of sperm (spermatogenesis), leading to complications with reproduction."

Toxic Chemicals Are Everywhere

Toxic chemicals are all around; in your food, water, air and countless commonly used products and goods, and this onslaught is having a definitive effect — even when exposures are relatively low. Yes, plastics have made modern life more "convenient" but the harm they cause is not worth it. The dangers are especially pronounced during pregnancy and early infancy.

The idea that chemicals affect your health should come as no surprise. What may be surprising is the extent of your exposure. Most of us go about our day, touching, eating, drinking and breathing with few concerns about what we’re actually coming into contact with.

As you saw above in the different scientific studies, the obesogenic effects of EDCs are especially clear, causing obesity and other metabolic problems. Obesity, in turn, is linked to other diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers.28 But the damage from EDCs and obesogens can be reduced through commonsense lifestyle choices.

 Comments (1)


Game Keeps It 100 On Internet’s Music Influence: “You’re Brainwashed To Thinkin The S**t Actually Sound Like Sumn”



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Look: Cam’ron Admits Jim Jones Has Only Caught L’s In Their One-On-One Face-Offs – “Fun Fact”


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