Glasgow & West Scotland

Gel laundry capsule poisonings rise

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Media captionThe brightly coloured capsules have caused emergency admissions

Free cupboard-catches are to be given to families in the Glasgow area with a three or four-month-old child in an effort to curb liquitab poisonings.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is worried about a continuing rise in the number of children being harmed after biting the brightly coloured capsules.

Doctors in Glasgow first highlighted the dangers of the gel laundry capsules last year after a spate of admissions.

Consultant Haytham Kubba said the problem had not gone away.

The paediatrician, who works at Glasgow's Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill, said: "Unfortunately we've had another three cases through intensive care this year.

"We have seen a lot more cases since we first raised the alarm a year ago."

A recent survey by the UK's National Poisons Information Service revealed there had been 1,486 cases involving the capsules between May 2009 and July 2012 - the vast majority involving children under the age of five.

Four children had breathing difficulties, one had a burned airway and four needed a ventilator to help them to breathe.

Eva Turner, a 15 month old, was one of the lucky ones. "I don't think she swallowed a lot of it but she was sick straight away," said her mum, Juliet Turner.

Image caption Children suffering from chemical burns have been treated in intensive care at a Glasgow hospital

"I had read about the dangers of liquitabs so I brought her straight to Yorkhill. She was kept in overnight for observation and was fine but it's quite scary to think what could have happened if she'd taken too much.

"It was on a shelf in a utility room and the box they were in had a click-lid on it which I didn't think she'd be able to open, but she did."

Health visitors from Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board will now hand out 16,000 cupboard catches.

Community safety development officer for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Carlene McAvoy, said: "For us the most important part of the campaign is actually the leaflet which is being handed out.

"There's a cupboard catch for people to put on their cupboards if they want to. These are child resistant, they're not child-proof. The main thing is to be aware of the issue."

Packaging change

The manufacturers of gel capsules have now agreed to change their packaging but it will take some time for all brands to comply.

By the end of the year they will be packaged in opaque boxes with child resistant openers and prominent warnings, in a voluntary scheme proposed by the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association (UKCPI).

Philip Malpass, the director general of the UKCPI said: "In addition, manufacturers are working with the authorities to monitor any further incidents and are carrying out regional public awareness campaigns that will be rolled out across the UK.

"We believe these measures will reduce incidents but should not rule out the vital role that parents have to play when using the products as directed and to keep them out of reach of infants when not in use."

Mr Kubba said he was "heartened" by the changes adopted by the industry but also stressed that the most important thing was for parents to lock liquitabs away.

"The reality is that these things are very concentrated and they are surprisingly dangerous," he said.

"I was surprised at how dangerous they can be. We've had nine children though our intensive care in the last few years, which is nine seriously injured children who need to be on a ventilator to help them breathe.

"One of those children needed reconstructive surgery to their voicebox and windpipe."

Earlier this summer the charity Children in Wales produced posters urging parents to "lock up your liquitabs" because of an increasing number of poisonings there.

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