Warning: Liquid nicotine can be lethal

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are small devices that heat a nicotine solution to create a vapor that is then inhaled, or "vaped." If ingested, a quarter teaspoon of that liquid is enough to kill a toddler.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are small devices that heat a nicotine solution to create a vapor that is inhaled, or “vaped.” If ingested, a quarter teaspoon of that liquid is enough to kill a toddler.

BY AMBER SMITH

A Mohawk Valley toddler got ahold of an uncapped container of “Heartland Vapes,” a liquid nicotine product. He drank some.

Within minutes, the 18-month-old boy was vomiting. Then the seizures started. His heart stopped beating by the time the ambulance arrived. Paramedics worked to revive him as they raced to the hospital, where doctors and nurses took over. The youngster did not survive.

His death led to the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act, signed into federal law in January 2016. It requires e-liquid manufacturers to comply with standards established by the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 by using special packaging that is difficult for children under 5 to open.

Just a quarter teaspoon of liquid nicotine is enough to kill a toddler, Upstate toxicologists point out in the journal Clinical Toxicology. Collaborating on the letter that was published Aug. 19 were doctors of pharmacy William Eggleston, Jeanna Marraffa and Christine Stork, and Nicholas Nacca, MD. The four work together at the Upstate New York Poison Center in Syracuse.

They reported that the American Association of Poison Control Centers saw a 236 percent increase in calls related to e-liquid exposure in 2014, compared with the previous three years. “Nearly 60 percent of those exposure involved children less than 5 years of age,” their article says.

It goes on to say that severe outcomes occurred greater than 2½ times more frequently in children exposed to e-liquid as compared with those exposed to traditional cigarettes.

Pediatricians and professionals working in poison control centers have expressed concerns over liquid nicotine products that are used in electronic cigarettes. The Upstate toxicologists say it’s important for people to be aware of the potential dangers — and to take precautions to prevent additional tragic exposures. Any liquid nicotine product should be kept out of the reach of children.

The Upstate New York Poison Center is available 24 hours per day, every day, at 800-222-1222.

This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast about the dangers of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

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