Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A.

Similar packaging often causes accidental poisonings

Accidental poisonings are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that nothing causes more accidental injury deaths overall, year in and year out. For anyone older than 25, nothing is a greater danger.

Surprised? Other common causes of injury-related deaths are car accidents, unintentional drownings and things of this nature. But many people feel shocked to see poisoning at the top of the list.

An accidental poisoning can happen in a number of ways. Medication could get mixed up, a person could drink too much alcohol, or something along those lines. However, it's important to be wary of mistakes made due to packaging. There are many stories of people who have gotten poisoned because they simply didn't know what they were consuming until it was too late.

For example, a worker at a day care decided to give all of the kids some Kool-Aid to drink. She got mixed up, didn't read the label, and gave the group glasses of windshield wiper fluid. They drank it and wound up in the hospital.

In another case, adults gave two young kids glasses of water. One child was just 4 months old, so the water got mixed into baby formula. The kids drank some, and then the family saw that the jug, which appeared to be water, actually held weed killer made with arsenic. One child survived after getting rushed to a treatment center, but the other passed away.

Or consider the case that swept through backyards one summer when a company sold tiki torch oil in bottles that looked just like apple juice. Multiple families grabbed it during the next BBQ, thinking it was juice, and half a dozen people drank it. One of them, an 8-year-old, wound up with permanent lung damage.

All of these stories do share a common theme: There are labels. The tiki torch oil container may look like apple juice, but it says that it's oil. In the above examples, someone had marked the weed killer, but the label just got folded down so that no one saw it right away.

Even so, you can imagine how easy it is to make this type of mistake, especially in a rush. When you're expecting one thing and the packaging looks familiar, do you really read the label? It's easy to ridicule people after a mistake, but do you check to make sure that the milk really is milk every time you get it out of the fridge?

That said, an incident like this could be a clear case of negligence, especially when it happens in a day care or another setting where workers are expected to provide adequate care for the children they're watching. Accidental poisonings are almost always avoidable with due diligence.

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