Research Article

Accidental poisoning in childhood: five year urban population study with 15 year analysis of fatality.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 07 January 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:44
  1. J Pearn,
  2. J Nixon,
  3. A Ansford,
  4. A Corcoran


    Patterns of accidental poisoning in children are changing dramatically. A five year population study (1977-81) was undertaken in urban children from Brisbane (population 1 000 000). A total of 2098 children were poisoned during this period with only one fatality, which represents a dramatic reduction in mortality. Over the past 15 years (1968-82) 13 children have died from accidental poisoning from this population, and two were murdered with drugs. A study of secular trends has indicated that peak incidence occurred in 1979, and the rate has been falling progressively since. The current age corrected rate of poisoning is 393 per 100 000 children per year (0-5 year olds). The rank order of poisons, drugs, and chemicals causing hospital admission and death is: petroleum distillates 13%; antihistamines 9%; benzodiazepines 9%; bleach and detergents 7%; and aspirin 6%. The ratio of fatalities to ingestions requiring hospital admission was calculated to give an index of a practical danger of noxious agents to which children are currently exposed and the rank order is: cardiotoxic drugs, one fatality to 25 ingestions; tricyclic antidepressants, one to 44; sympathomimetic drugs, one to 54; caustic soda, one to 68; aspirin, one fatality to 350 ingestions. Accidental poisoning of children leading to death has been reduced because patterns of drug prescriptions have changed, packaging of dangerous drugs has been made safer, and substances such as kerosene have been coloured blue.