Liquid nicotine kills toddler in Fort Plain, New York after the child allegedly swallowed a chemical from an electronic cigarette refill bottle. The boy was taken to the hospital when he was found unresponsive in his home but was then pronounced dead. Police said his death was an accident and there was no suspected foul play.
It was not clear whether the liquid nicotine he ingested was for e-cigarette usage, but officials are concerned about similar accidents of children in the homes of e-cigarette smokers. The toddler’s death is the first reported liquid nicotine-related death after 2012, when a man injected the chemical.
Phil Daman, the president of Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association said he was saddened by the terrible news. He questioned if the nicotine found in the toddler was the standard liquid for e-cigarette usage; as the strength of the chemical can vary from low to high. The boy may have taken it in dosage higher than normal. Since e-cigarettes are not regulated, the liquid used for them could contain nicotine of potent high grade or just of small amount.
The liquid nicotine killing the toddler in New York resulted in a big backlash to the state, where local officials already passed a bill to require liquid nicotine container caps to be child-resistant. Governor Andre Cuomo of New York however, is yet to sign the bill later this month.
One of the major concerns is that refills of e-cigarettes are sold like sweets and fruit juices. Director Judy Rightmyer of the Capital District Tobacco-Free Coalition said they are aware that liquid nicotine can be lethal, but unfortunately, they do not come in childproof caps.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, a teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be fatal to children, while smaller amounts can result to severe illness that needs emergency treatment. The center announced in November that liquid nicotine exposure is rising, but there are no child-proof packaging standards set yet.
Dr. Donna Seger at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Poison Control said nicotine in the smallest amount is still dangerous to children. The chemical is easy to get into and once exposed to it, the result could be really bad, Seger said. Children are likely to be attracted to flavored nicotine liquids that look like candies. Nicotine exposure symptoms include eye irritation, nausea as well as vomiting.
As of November 30, exposure to the dangerous chemical reached 36,838 compared to 1,543 exposures in 2013. The reported exposure figure in 2011 was only 271.
Nicotine liquids for e-cigarettes are sold, and there are no regulations to make them childproof. As the exposure is increasing, companies and legislators begin to take steps to safety. For instance, Vapor World has made their bottles child resistant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, the number of children in America who have access to e-cigarettes already reached more than 16 million. There are 40 states that have banned the sales of electronic cigarettes to people who are under 18 since 2010. Health officials are concerned because the brains of the young people can be damaged by the addicting nicotine.
The recent rise of the popularity of “vaping” also means the purchase of liquid nicotine also increases. As their brightly colored packaging entice children, the public hopes that accidents like the recent tragedy of liquid nicotine killing a toddler in New York will not happen again.
By Judith Aparri
Photo courtesy of A. Currell – Flicker License