Poisoning cases rise blamed on e-cigs

The number of liquid nicotine poisoning cases has jumped in the last year with the soaring popularity of electronic cigarettes.

Sales of e-cigarettes are expected to rocket in the coming weeks with people kicking their smoking habit as part of new year resolutions. Parents have been warned the nicotine refills for the vapourised cigarettes are highly dangerous to children.

E-cigarettes contain small tanks of liquid nicotine, but the refills can be poisonous to children — particularly if ingested.

While mild cases of nicotine poisoning in children causes vomiting, sweating, and dizziness, more severe cases can result in convulsions, irregular heartbeat, and affect the central nervous system.

There has been a spike in the number of e-cigarette poisonings presented at the Poisons Centre in the Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, from eight cases in 2013 to 25 cases up to the end of September 2014.

Centre manager Patricia Casey said people need to be aware the refills can be highly toxic for children.

“While people might be thinking of giving up smoking or switching to electronic cigarettes, they should be aware the little bottles of nicotine refill liquids used in electronic cigarettes are potentially very dangerous for children,” she said.

“Children get hold of the bottle and drink it. Calls about them have gone up this year. It’s definitely a lot more than we would have had last year.

“There is concern about them because they do contain quite high concentration of nicotine.

“In mild cases you are looking at vomiting, sweating, dizziness. In the more severe cases it can cause convulsions, irregular heartbeat, and affect breathing.”

Ms Casey said the increasing popularity of the ‘vaping’ cigarette could account for the rise in poisoning cases reported to the centre. “There are much more widely available this year. There have been 25 calls this year compared to only eight calls in all of last year. It was predominately children.

“Children have been brought to hospital with it here but we are not aware of any serious cases. We’ve read reports from other countries of children having severe toxicity. It affects your central nervous system and the area of the brain that controls your breathing as well in really high doses. It can affect nerve conduction as well in some areas which is why you can get the convulsions.”

There have been reports last year of the death of a dog in England from nicotine poisoning after chewing on a bottle of refill nicotine liquid used to fuel the smoke-free vaporiser of an e-cigarette.

The British Veterinary Poisons Information Service has reported a 300% increase in e-cigarette poisoning in the last 12 months but there have been little or no proven cases of this type of poisoning in Ireland.

Ms Casey said:

“There have been fatalities reported in animals. People might be thinking about using these products so they should be aware and make sure children can’t get hold of it.”


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