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ACE Hosts National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness (NIPAW) Panel

Panel at NIPAW

During this year’s National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week (NIPAW) a key theme was education through collaboration. Our inaugural panel was held at the National Press Club on March 23rd and remains available for viewing through the Alliance for Consumer Education’s (ACE) Facebook page @AllianceforConsumerEd.

ACE brought together experts from a wide spectrum of experience to discuss and explore new ways of preventing accidental poisonings and intentional inhalant abuse.

  • Ann Marie Buerkle, Acting Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, represented government’s role in protecting and educating consumers.
  • Sergeant Jeff Williams has experience serving in the K9 and drug unit at the East Cleveland Police Department, but spoke as a parent who lost his 14-year-old son, Kyle, to inhalant abuse.
  • Ann Thompson, PhD and Technical Manager in the Medical Department at 3M, offered insights about the industry’s responsibility to consumers and the importance of good product stewardship.
  • Stephen Kaminski, the CEO of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), discussed how accidental poisonings can be prevented and managed.
  • Robert Slone, Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer at Stepan Company, moderated the panel.

Sara Stickler, Executive Director of ACE, opened the panel by highlighting the work of organizations that seek to prevent accidental poisonings and inhalant abuse. She noted that the panel demonstrates the “collaboration that exists today between government agencies, associations, organizations and industry partners.” Buerkle, honorary chairman of ACE, extended this message by stressing, “There’s so much more power in working together rather than each of us doing our own thing.” As acting chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Buerkle executes the statutes of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and the Poison Prevention Act.

With product safety and poison prevention in mind, Thompson reminded the audience that products are invented and innovated, by companies such as 3M, with the consumer in mind--to ultimately make life easier. To attain product stewardship, Thompson discussed the importance of reading the label. “There’s nothing more disheartening then to receive a phone call from someone who’s having a medical emergency and they blatantly admit to not reading the label,” Thompson said, “And all the information they needed on how to use that product--maybe using the product in a well ventilated area--was overlooked.” By reading the labels of products, we can better understand how to avoid unintentional misuse.

Kaminski addressed the issue of unintentional misuse and accidental poisonings from his perspective of overseeing 55 poison control centers across the United States. “You look under your kitchen sink and almost everything there can be a poison, everything in your garage can be a poison.” According to the AAPCC, six percent of a calls received pertain to poison inhalation and ten percent of deaths are based on inhalation. There is a clear overlap between accidental poisonings and intentional abuse of products.

When it came to intentional inhalant abuse, the consensus between panelists was that the more information provided to teens and adults alike, the better informed their decisions can be. Kaminski urged audience members to tell young people AAPCC’s online resource, poisonhelp.org, a potentially lifesaving forum that allows users to list symptoms and determine if medical treatment is required.

Sgt. Williams’ son Kyle used inhalants for just two weeks before he lost his life. Williams believes that had his son known the risk he was taking he wouldn’t have abused the product. He also acknowledges that there are faults in the data about Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. With more accurate information, inhalant abuse can be recognized for the problem it is and first responders can know what to look for and be better equipped with handling cases. Williams encouraged the audience to “Give [young people] the right information to let them make the right choice.” Every parent wants to believe their child is safe, but to Williams, the best way to ensure their safety is to have open and honest discussions to address the dangers of inhalant abuse.

To prepare for these discussions, ACE designed a digital toolkit that was handed out at the panel that catered specifically to the needs of parents and educators as well as industry partners. The toolkit contains valuable statistics on inhalant abuse that can be used for talking with your children. It also outlines ACE’s commitment to educating the public on how to safely use, store, and dispose of household products. The parent edition includes activities and downloads to facilitate discussion as well as lessons and quizzes for educators. In it, you can also find tips to prevent accidental poisonings and sources to consult when such poisonings do occur.

Executive Director Sara Stickler, and Program Development Manager Elizabeth Bailey drew on the panelists’ commitment to teamwork to present a captivating conversation on ways to raise awareness of accidental poisonings and inhalant abuse. More than 1,300 people engaged with the panel through ACE’s Facebook page. ACE hopes to continue the momentum to spark conversations about using products properly to maintain safe, healthy, and happy homes. 

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