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A component of the Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System (CMIRPS).

Medication Safety Tips

Poison Look Alikes - Lamp Oil is a Hazardous Product!

Lamp oil is more dangerous than you may think. In 2008, the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System reported that several individuals became critically ill, and one person died, after accidentally drinking lamp or torch oil which had been mistaken for apple juice. Lamp oils can easily be confused with juice or other drinks. The oils are similar in appearance to beverages (especially if colouring has been added) and may be packaged in containers that resemble drink containers. When taken by mouth, lamp oils can get into the lungs and cause pneumonia, permanent lung damage or death.

Here are some ways that you can reduce the risk of someone being harmed by a lamp oil poisoning:

  1. When buying lamp oil, or any hazardous product, examine the packaging. Make sure that the package has a child-proof closure. Don't buy a hazardous product if the packaging resembles the packaging of a beverage or food.
  2. Be aware that a child may drink lamp oil directly from a lamp. Are your lamps and torches childproof? If in doubt, throw it out!
  3. Store lamp oil and all hazardous products out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. Never store lamp oil or any hazardous product near food.
  4. Never leave hazardous products out in the open, for example on a kitchen counter. Always put hazardous products back in a safe place immediately after use. Never leave a child alone with a poisonous product.
  5. Do not induce vomiting if an oil-based product is accidentally swallowed. (Inducing vomiting increases the risk of oil getting into the lungs.)
  6. Don't leave your "poison awareness sense" behind when you go camping, boating or to the cottage. Storage conditions in tents, RVs, trailers, boats and cottages are sometimes not ideal — and these are environments where lamp oils and other petroleum-based products are often used. Always store hazardous products in safe locations, no matter where you are.
  7. Make a habit of reading all labels before eating or drinking any item. Educate your family members that unsafe products often resemble other (safe) products found around the home.

More information on preventing poisonings with lamp oil is available on the website of the British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre.

This information was adapted with the permission of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, using material originally published on the site

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