Northwest NEWS

December 14, 1998

Home & Garden

Poison Center lists holiday hazards

The following is the Washington Poison Center's list of some of the most popular holiday decorations and the facts about their potential hazards:

   The poinsettia may irritate the mouth or stomach and the sap may irritate the skin of some people, but is otherwise non-toxic.

   Holly berries, if chewed, may cause gastroenteritis.

   Mistletoe, if more than several berries are consumed, may cause gastroenteritis. Call the Washington Poison Center to determine whether syrup of ipecac is needed to make the victim vomit.

   Evergreens are not toxic, but the sharp needles could cause discomfort. Beware of homemade Christmas tree preservatives containing bleach or aspirin. If eaten or drunk, both can be toxic to children.

   Christmas tree ornaments made today are not poison hazards, but a young child could choke on parts of them.

   Tinsel, icicles, glitter, and garlands are made of plastic, aluminum, or tin, and are not considered to be a serious problem if swallowed--but can be a problem in ears, up the nose, etc.

   Artificial snow usually contains wax and long-chain fatty acids which are non-toxic. However, repeatedly inhaling the aerosol could cause aspiration problems.

   Wax candles are not toxic.

   Angel hair is not poisonous, but it is made of spun glass, like fiberglass, and could injure or irritate the eyes and skin--as well as the victim's airway.

   Wrapping paper and ribbon are virtually all made with non-toxic dyes.

   Perfumes and colognes (popular gifts left under the tree) often contain high concentrations of alcohol, but in virtually all instances, the amount consumed is too small to be a problem and the scenting oils are no problem, either.

   The Washington Poison Center is a non-profit, state supported, 24-hour toll-free (1-800-732-6985) telephone service, staffed by pharmacists, nurses, and poison experts who provide free emergency medical assistance, information, and education about toxic substances or suspected poisons.