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Poisoning Caused by E-Cigarettes on the Rise

Update Date: Apr 04, 2014 09:34 AM EDT

According to a new federal report, poisonings tied to e-cigarettes are on the rise. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of calls to poison control centers due to nicotine poisoning caused by e-cigarette products has increased over the past few years.

"The time has come to start thinking about what we can do to keep this from turning into an even worse public health problem," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health reported by WebMD. "We need to make sure we can avert the possibility of an unintended death from nicotine poisoning."

For this study, the researchers counted the number of calls poison centers received each month that were related to either e-cigarettes or regular ones. From September 2010 through to February 2014, the frequency of calls tied to e-cigarette poisoning increased from 0.3 percent to 41.7 percent. In terms of calls per month, in 2010, there was roughly one call in the month of September. By 2014, there were 215 calls in February alone. The researchers found that 51 percent of the calls involved poisonings in children aged five and younger. 42 percent of the calls dealt with adults aged 20 and older.

"The concentration of nicotine in these solutions is significant and they need to be made childproof and regulated," Dr. Vincenzo Maniaci, an emergency medicine specialist at Miami Children's Hospital, said. "Especially for kids under the age of 5, this amount of nicotine can be fatal."

"What's attractive to kids: It's the smell. It's the scent. It's the color," added Gaylord Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center according to CNN. "A kid's not going to know the difference between a poison and something they can drink."

There are three ways that e-cigarettes can cause nicotine poisonings. Children and adults can swallow, inhale or absorb the substance via the mouth, lips or eyes. Symptoms of nicotine poisonings are nausea, vomiting or seizures. If symptoms are apparent, the patient will need to go to a nearby hospital for treatment. If there are no symptoms, the call center will instruct the patient to stay at home. The call center will then follow-up on the patient's health a few hours later. So far, the CDC reported that within the U.S., there have been no deaths tied to e-cigarette nicotine poisoning.

The report was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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