Birmingham parents urged to take action to protect children from cleaning product injuries in the home

Posted by Charlotte Salter, on November 6, 2013.

Families with toddlers across Birmingham are to be targeted in a pioneering campaign by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and The UK Cleaning Products Association (UKCPI) to protect children from the risks of household cleaning products.

A handy magnetic notepad featuring key safety advice to prevent accidental poisonings from everyday items will be handed out to 60,000 families across the city and its surrounding areas in the first scheme of its kind in the UK by national accident prevention charity RoSPA.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital, children’s centres and nurseries will be distributing the useful resource, which will be a constant reminder in family kitchens, as part of the Take action today, put them away educational campaign, funded by the industry’s trade body the UKCPI.

Due to their inquisitive nature, children under the age of five are most at risk of accidentally swallowing or getting household cleaning products into their eyes. Even products with a child resistant closure cannot guarantee safety – they are designed to delay access not prevent access by infants. This is another reason why parents and carers are being encouraged to store cleaning products out of reach, out of sight and in a locked cupboard.

There were 606 children treated at hospitals across Birmingham and Solihull for accidental poisonings involving household cleaning products or medication last year, latest figures acquired by RoSPA show[i].

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser, said: “It doesn’t take long for tiny hands to get hold of a household cleaning product if they are not stored safely.

“Cleaning products are often stored under the sink or by the toilet, but we want parents to recognise the risk this can pose to their children. Child resistant containers will simply slow down a child’s access to the contents so it is vitally important that parents and carers take simple steps of putting household products out of reach and out of sight in order to prevent unnecessary accidents.”

Philip Malpass of the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association said: “Cleaning products are designed to be safe to use and to provide the clean and hygienic home we often take for granted today. The accidents we see involving young children and cleaning products are avoidable and whilst the severity of the injuries are generally low, we hope that this campaign will remind parents to follow the usage instructions on the packaging, and in so doing, avoid unnecessary accidents.”

Dr Ben Stanhope, lead consultant at Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s emergency department, welcomed the campaign after treating children for accidental poisonings and said: “The Emergency Department sees a number of children who have swallowed household cleaning products or got them in their eyes. It is important to recognise that some of these products are toxic.

“They can cause chemical burns to the eyes which have to be treated via prolonged and unpleasant washing to flush the chemical out. If swallowed, some chemicals like these can cause a very upset tummy and, rarely, burns to the mouth, throat and stomach.

“As a parent myself, I know only too well how ingenious toddlers can be, in getting into places that they shouldn’t, including the kind of places that we think are completely secure. I would urge parents to give particular attention to where they keep their household cleaning products, so that they are always out of reach of little fingers.”

Take action today, put them away advice to parents includes:

  • Store household cleaning products out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard
  • Always store chemicals in their original containers
  • Never pierce or break laundry capsules or tablets
  • Always close the lid of any product
  • In the event of an incident, follow advice on the product pack and seek medical attention.

Further information on the campaign and where families can receive a free campaign fridge magnet can be found at

[i] Figures relate to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital and Solihull Hospital for 2012-13.

Contact the UKCPI on or call 07843 199397.