Hey, What's That Under the Sink?

It only takes one second for children to get into the cabinet under the sink, where you store the cleaning products and pesticides.
Hey, What's That Under the Sink? - Articles

Updated: September 4, 2012

Hey, What's That Under the Sink?

The cabinet doors are easy for Billy to open because they are at his level and they aren't locked. Billy's excited because he found a bottle with a bright green liquid inside. He's seen other kids and adults drinking green liquid out of such bottles. He puts his mouth on the bottle and…

Did you know that at least half of the poison exposures reported each year to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) involve children under the age of 6? Children can easily be exposed to many common products containing hazardous chemicals. According to the 2010 AAPCC report, of the top ten substance exposures to children age 5 or under, household cleaning products ranked number three and pesticides ranked number eight. Personal care products were ranked number one. Also, there are recent reports of children being poisoned by single dose, highly concentrated laundry detergent pods. These items are advertised as being less messy and more convenient, but come in bright colors often resembling candy. Some brands even come in containers that look like candy jars. What can you do to minimize the risk of exposures to hazardous chemicals to you and the children in your care?

Before purchasing or using a cleaning product or pesticide, ask yourself, do I really need this product to complete the task at hand? For example, ask yourself does this area need to be sanitized or disinfected after every use or will soap and water be sufficient and meet the required standards? If there is a pest problem, ask yourself and your director about the non-chemical approaches that can be used to manage the problem.

For indoor pests such as insects or mice, take an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. IPM uses information about the pest to choose methods of control that are the safest and most effective. IPM methods include pest prevention, exclusion and non-chemical tools first. If chemical pesticides are needed, products are chosen that pose the least risk to human health. With IPM, you start by asking: "Why is this pest here?" and try to remove the conditions allowing the pest to enter and live. This approach solves pest problems rather than treating the symptoms. It also reduces the need to use pesticides repeatedly. For example, just removing pests' access to food, water and shelter can often times be enough to stop the problem. Make sure screens are intact and in good repair, and that any cracks, gaps or spaces where pests can enter the building are sealed up with patching materials such as copper mesh and silicone caulk. For occasional nuisance pests, a vacuum can get rid of them. For others, try traps and enclosed baits before using sprays. Remember, only a licensed pesticide applicator can apply pesticides in a child care facility!

While you may not be directly involved in the purchasing of cleaning products used in your child care facility, you are an advocate for the health of the children in your care and can discuss concerns and ideas with the director. Not all cleaners and pesticides are created equal, so here are some things to consider before purchasing a product.

How to decide what to purchase

If you do decide to purchase a product, don't just grab one and go.

  • Look at the container first.
  • Does it resemble another non-hazardous product a child may recognize? Consider the container shape, color and smell of the product
  • Is the container child-resistant?
  • Read the label thoroughly - the front and the back!
  • What signal word, CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER or DANGER-POISON, is written on the front? "CAUTION" indicates slightly toxic products while "DANGER-POISON" are highly toxic.
  • What are the "active ingredients"? Use the Internet to learn more about these ingredients, including the known health effects associated with them.
  • How is the product to be used properly?
  • What safety information and precautions are listed?
  • How is the product to be disposed of?
  • Follow all label instructions and precautions precisely. The label is the law.

Proper Storage

What happens to a product after it's purchased is just as important as choosing the product itself. Knowing where and how to properly store these products can dramatically decrease exposure risks to children. Begin by taking a "child's eye view" of your surroundings. Children explore their world by touching and putting things in their mouths. They eat, drink and breathe more, pound-for-pound, than adults, and their brain and other vital organs are still growing and developing. Their world and breathing space is low to the ground, where chemical products settle after use. Cleaners, pesticides and other hazardous chemicals need to be stored in a locked cabinet at least 5 feet high. Additionally, always store products in their original container with the label attached - never put a chemical in an unmarked container or a food container, such as a soda bottle.

Accidents can happen at anytime, so post the Poison Control Center phone number, 1-800-222-1222, near every phone and enter it into your cell phone so it's available if you're away from the facility.

For more information about children and poisonings, check out the attached factsheet from Purdue University entitled "Children and Poisonings: Seconds Matter." For more information about integrated pest management (IPM) and steps you can take to prevent pests and keep your home, school, or child care healthy and safe, visit the website of the Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program. You can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our blog from our homepage.