Fear of a fatality as 11 children are poisoned by e-cigarettes
EXPERTS are warning of the dangers posed by e-cigarettes, as figures show that 11 children under six suffered nicotine poisoning over the past two years.
The National Poisons Information Centre says the alarming spike in child poisonings is due to the increased use of the new electronic cigarettes. It says there could be a fatality if the problem is not addressed immediately.
Since July 2012, 17 cases of liquid nicotine poisoning have been reported to the centre.
However, the rate of poisonings is increasing at an alarming rate – with nearly as many cases recorded in the first three months of this year as there were for the whole of 2013.
E-cigarettes contain small tanks of liquid nicotine, but the refills can be poisonous to infants – particularly if ingested.
Irish e-cigarette sales grew by 478pc last year, generating €7.3m, but they are unregulated.
Between January and March of this year, there were seven incidents of nicotine poisoning – just one fewer than 2013 when eight cases were reported.
Of the 17 cases, 11 involved children under the age of six, two were teenagers and four were adults. Thirteen of those poisoned had ingested the liquid. The remainder related to eye contact.
The National Poisons Information Centre, based in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, says the true number of nicotine poisoning cases is likely to be much higher as it is not a requirement to report such cases.
"The number of enquiries about liquid nicotine is small but increasing," said Dr Edel Duggan, clinical director at the centre. "In the first three months of this year we have received almost the same number of queries as in all of 2013.
"Since January 2014 we have noticed a significant increase so it is a worrying aspect should that trend continue.
"The real number of cases is probably higher as the National Poisons Information Centre is not contacted about every patient who attends a hospital emergency department," Dr Duggan said.
Nicotine is highly toxic when ingested, inhaled, or even when it comes in contact with a person's skin.
While the incidents reported to date have been relatively mild, severe nicotine poisonings can lead to coma, convulsions, heart attacks and respiratory arrest.
The centre advised that the cartridges should be stored where children cannot reach as it reminded parents of the dangers.