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Thousands of kids are ingesting liquid nicotine, so researchers are calling for new regulations


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Circa) -- A new study published Monday in Pediatrics shows that despite the unknown health effects of e-cigarette use in adults, liquid nicotine exposure in children remains extremely dangerous.

The research, which was conducted by the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Center for Injury Research and Policy, found that between January 2012 and April 2017, there were more than 8,200 calls to poison control centers across the country regarding children ingesting liquid nicotine.

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Researchers noted that 84 percent of the children who ingested liquid nicotine were younger than 3 years old.

"I still don’t know that everyone’s aware how dangerous this is when you get these really high concentration liquids," said Dr. Henry Spiller, an author of the study and the director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "But you get these 32 and 56 milligrams per milliliter [bottles] -- as little as a mouthful is going to put a child in [the] ICU or admission to the hospital."

In recent years, state and federal legislation was passed requiring child-resistant packaging for liquid nicotine. Spiller said the decline in the number of children ingesting liquid nicotine since January 2015 could be attributed to the new laws.

Following the enactment of federal laws to help prevent liquid nicotine poisonings in children, there was nearly a 20 percent decrease in exposures according to research out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. But experts say additional regulations of these products are needed.

While the decline is encouraging, Spiller said they are still seeing a large number of children going to the hospital for this.

"Nicotine, you may or may not know, was a pesticide," Spiller explained. "Up until 1980, you could go to the store and buy liquid nicotine to spray on your plants to kill the bugs. So when you get concentrated nicotine, people may not be aware how dangerous it can be."

That's why the authors of this study are calling for flow restrictors, like the ones used on eye drops, to be added to liquid nicotine refill bottles.

"That would be a second backup," Spiller said. "Even if they [children] got the cap off, they could still only get a drop or two."

In addition, the authors are calling for the volume and concentration of liquid nicotine refill bottles to be limited so that if children do ingest it, the dosage won't be fatal. Beyond that, they are asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to consider treating these liquid nicotine bottles the same way they do cigarettes by prohibiting the use of flavors or labeling that's appealing to children.

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See more related Circa stories:
The health effects of e-cigarettes
Do we really know what's in an e-cigarette?
Puff, puff, pass it up? E-cig flavors toxic, study finds

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