Food Safety: Have you introduced rat poison into your food preparation?

Many of us have pest control services come to our homes on a regular schedule. Are you aware of where those bait traps are being placed and whether your children are being exposed to rat poison? Let's consider what it is and how to protect ourselves and the small children in our home. Rat poison can be passed from hand to mouth and from hand to food. If your child gets ahold of the rat poison in your home he or she may pass it on to you and you to the food the family eats.

How does rat poison work?

The melamine scare has me thinking more and more about food safety which has lead me to review the history of DDT, PCB's and other poisons we come into contact with through the food chain.

Rat poison is a rodenticide, which is a category of pest control chemicals used to kill rodents. There are first and second generation chemicals which can be used to step up the killing power when rodents become resistant to first generation chemicals.

The way most chemical rat poison works is by making the rat's blood makeup change so that it doesn't coagulate. In addition large doses can cause damage to tiny blood vessels causing those vessels to leak. If the blood won't clot and the blood vessels leak then the rats die through internal bleeding. If the bodily functions for blood coagulation won't stop bleeding then the rat dies in a few days from mostly internal bleeding. These chemicals make blood coagulation not work by interfering with the Vitamin K coagulating process.

How do I know if my pet or child has eaten rat poison?

It's difficult to imagine, but every thirteen seconds the U.S. Poison Control receives a phone call about someone being exposed to rat poison. Forty percent of those calls are children under three years of age. Over two million exposures are children under six years of age. Rat poisons can be ingested by house pets and children. If hands aren't washed they can come into contact with food through the preparation process. Washing your hands thoroughly is not just a good idea it's mandatory for the safety of your family.

You may wonder how you can tell if your pet or child has eaten rat poison. Follow the link to Expert Village and How to Tell if Your Dog Has Eaten Rat Poison, Dr. Adrienne Mulligan and her video explanation of Vitamin K therapy. The symptoms include blood in the stool, from the gums or unexplained bruising.

What is being done to make rat poison safer to have in your home?

The EPA this year imposed new restrictions on rat poisons in an attempt to reduce exposure incidents in children.

"Under the new restrictions, only farmers, livestock owners and certified rodent control employees will be allowed to purchase rat poison in bulk. Bags larger than 8 pounds will no longer be sold at hardware and home-improvement stores.

Children who come into contact with highly toxic pellets can experience terrible symptoms from digesting them. They include internal bleeding, nosebleeds, hair loss and extensive bruising.

Between 2001 and 2003, rat poison was responsible for nearly 60,000 poisonings, according to a study done by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. About 250 of these yearly exposures result in serious injuries or death.

The EPA said it believes the restrictions will not only keep the products out of children's hands, but also reduce the ecological and wildlife risks associated with exposure to rat poison."

EPA aims to keep rat poison from children, animals May 30, 2008.

Go to the U.S. EPA site to see how you can poison-proof your home. The EPA provides a two-page room to room checklist that will get you a whole lot closer to having a poison-proof living environment.

Ten Tips to Protecting your Children from being poisoned.

1. Always store pesticides and other household chemicals, including chlorine bleach, out of children's reach -- preferably in a locked cabinet.

2. Read the Label FIRST! Pesticide products, household cleaning products, and pet products can be dangerous or ineffective if too much or too little is used.

3. Before applying pesticides or other household chemicals, remove children and their toys, as well as pets, from the area. Keep children and pets away until the pesticide has dried or as long as is recommended on the label.

4. If your use of a pesticide or other household chemical is interrupted (perhaps by a phone call), properly reclose the container and remove it from children's reach. Always use household products in child-resistant packaging.

5. Never transfer pesticides to other containers that children may associate with food or drink(like soda bottles), and never place rodent or insect baits where small children can get to them.

6. When applying insect repellents to children, read all directions first; do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin; do not apply to eyes, mouth, hands, or directly on the face; and use just enough to cover exposed skin or clothing, but do not use under clothing.

7. Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. If you plan to remodel or renovate, get your home tested . Don't try to remove lead paint yourself.

8. Ask about lead when buying or renting a home. Sellers and landlords must disclose known lead hazards in houses or apartments built before 1978.

9. Get your child tested for lead. There are no visible symptoms of lead poisoning, and children may suffer behavior or learning problems as a result of exposure to lead hazards.

10. Wash children's hands, toys, and bottles often. Regularly clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces to reduce possible exposure to lead and pesticide residues.

By a lead-testing kit and test your dishes and glasses for lead content.

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