Arts & Crafts and Poison Control: How to Keep Kids Safe

Did you ever notice how delicious some of those colored markers smell? Ever tempted to taste one? Ok, admit it…you’d never do it, but still you can’t say you haven’t at least thought about it. So, can we blame the 4 year old who thinks that the blueberry marker might just taste as good as it smells?

Unfortunately we sometimes forget that those pretty colored paints and crayons and markers look and smell so good because they’re made up of chemicals that are designed to make them look and smell good. And because little kids are attracted to bright, colorful things, and love to touch and taste (who doesn’t), we need to be extra cautious to make sure that glues, paints, crayons and other arts and crafts supplies are handled with care.

According to the Minnesota Poison Control: “In 2009, the nation’s 57 poison control centers received more than 35,000 calls about exposures to art products; of these, more than 26,000 calls concerned children younger than 6.”  And the Virginia Poison Control Center highlights this list of art supplies to keep an eye on:

  • Chalk contains calcium, and swallowing some typically does not cause poisoning. More serious problems can occur if the chalk lodges in the throat or is breathed into the windpipe, blocking the airway and causing coughs, difficulty breathing, or wheezing.
  • Water-soluble markers usually don’t cause harm. Most other felt-tip markers don’t cause poisoning if small amounts of the ink are swallowed. A few markers may contain aniline dyestuffs, which, if a large amount is swallowed, can be poisonous.
  • Erasers are not considered poisonous but could cause blockage or injury if lodged in the throat or breathed into the windpipe.
  • School-type glues (such as Elmer’s®) generally are considered nonpoisonous. “Super glues” do not cause serious poisoning if a mouthful is swallowed; however, they cause mucous membranes and skin surfaces to stick together instantly. If “super glue” gets into the eye, the eyelids can be sealed together, resulting in lid injury and loss of lashes. Worse, “super glue” can cause serious damage to the eye’s cornea.
  • If children swallow small amounts of water-based paint – including latex, tempera and poster paint – poisoning is not likely. Some latex paints do contain measurable amounts of glycols, so poisoning could happen if someone swallows a very large amount. Oil-based paints contain solvents that can cause poisoning if swallowed.

The National Capital Poison Center recommends the following safety tips:

  • Read the label carefully, and follow all instructions for safe use and disposal.
  • Discard products that have passed their expiration dates.
  • Don’t eat or drink while using art products.
  • Wash up – skin, equipment and environment – after use.
  • Never use products to paint skin or decorate food unless the product is specifically labeled for that use.
  • Store art products in their original containers locked up and out of the reach of children.

Minnesota Poison Control also suggests that “when choosing art supplies for use by children, consider the product’s certification. Many art supplies are imprinted with the seals of the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute. Products with the AP (Approved Product) seal are best for use by young children. Products with the CL (Cautionary Label) Seal are more appropriate for adult use.”

Finally…always better safe than sorry. If you’re unsure whether or not your child has been exposed to (or eaten) a toxic level of art supplies, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for advice or information.

For a more detailed description of arts and crafts Do’s and Don’ts, here is the official Art and Craft Safety Guide from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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Not long ago Audra, one of our editors, shared with us her story about her wonderful experience with “edible play dough.”   What about you??  Ever called poison control for an arts and crafts mishap?

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical Devices and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team

Comments

8 Responses to “Arts & Crafts and Poison Control: How to Keep Kids Safe”

  1. Great Post!!! I am so careful with the arts and crafts I buy My Little Guy! Especially regarding imported items! I just don’t! I don’t know what the standard is in other countries, if the products contain lead or contaminants.

    HAVE POISON CONTROLS # PLASTERED ON EVERY PHONE IN YOUR HOME! IT’S A MUST! Have it on the fridge and on your cell phone as well!
    xoxo
    Leslie
    Leslie Loves Veggies

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Scary isn’t it?? It’d be nice if we had tighter regulations over our imported goods, but barring that, it’s up to folks like us to be careful. And you are a most EXCELLENT grandma 🙂

  2. Beth Parker says:

    Thanks for putting this together. It’s good to know which craft products to watch out for. To a small child, everything looks like it’s good to eat.

    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      Especially when they try and make things look and smell like real food, it’s no wonder poison control gets so many calls. Thanks 🙂

  3. Terrell says:

    I found the information on this blog beneficial.

  4. Anna says:

    I am working in a daycare center in the infant toddler area. A co worker used acrylic craft paint for art (different brands) so the children on a daily basis put this in their mouth and on their skin and lips. Sometimes it dries in spots on their face and is left their. Is this a toxic practice. I use on tempra as it washed easily.

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