Western Australia’s office for Consumer Protection has issued an urgent warning to parents after a six-year old child was hospitalised in Perth after drinking hand sanitiser.
The little girl was admitted to an unnamed medical facility with acute intoxication after drinking between 30-60mm of alcohol-based hand sanitiser and recording a blood alcohol reading of 0.18.
By way of comparison, the legal blood alcohol level for a car driver in Australia is 0.05.
Little girl was ‘hosting’ a tea party
According to a report by 7 News, the girl was pretending to host a tea party and poured the hand sanitiser into a teacup before drinking it.
She has since recovered, but the incident has prompted the state’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Lanie Chopping, to urge parents and carers to be extra vigilant as children can mistake the bottles of sanitiser for food or drink.
“With many households and schools now using hand sanitiser as part of their daily routines, it’s important to remember these products should be treated with extra caution around children,” Chopping said.
Few mouthfuls can be poisonous
“Most alcohol-based sanitisers contain upwards of 60 percent alcohol content, meaning just a couple of mouthfuls can be enough to poison a child.”
She continued: “Poison centres across Australia have seen an increase in adverse reports involving these products. Given these products are packaged in a range of container types, including plastic bottles with pop-top lids, there is greater potential for them to be mistaken for food or drink.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is now working with various state and territory consumer bodies, as well as suppliers, to ensure sure hand sanitiser is not sold in packaging that resembles food or drink bottles.
The action includes educating sellers about new requirements for packaging and labelling, and using product safety officers to ensure they comply.
Some authorities are more relaxed
Consumers who use their own bottles at in-store hand sanitiser refill stations are also being advised to clearly mark their bottles to avoid confusion with any other household or food items.
But in the US state of Texas, authorities there seem a little more relaxed.
“While hand sanitisers can be dangerous if swallowed, actual symptoms from their misuse are extremely rare,” says the Texas Poison Center Network.
“Most children who get a ‘taste’ or a ‘lick’ of hand sanitiser experience only mild symptoms, if any, and can be safely managed at home with the assistance of the Poison Center. Hand sanitiser tastes bad and can result in a burning sensation, so most children will not swallow an amount large enough to produce symptoms.”