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What makes something a poison?

Almost any product or substance can be poisonous if used in the wrong way or in the wrong amount. The number one source of poisoning for all ages is medicine–both prescription and over-the-counter. Other common sources of poisoning include cleaning products, pesticides, automotive products, workplace chemicals, plants, alcohol, and personal care products like mouthwash, skin creams, or cosmetics. Some animals are venomous, meaning they can poison us through a bite or a sting. Some poisons are in the air, like carbon monoxide gas.   Learn more about specific poisons here.

How do poisonings happen?

Most poisonings are unintentional. For example:

  • A woman takes her husband’s prescribed medicine instead of her own by mistake.
  • A toddler grabs a bottle of laundry detergent from a basket and swallows a mouthful.
  • A man reaches for a bottle of rust remover and accidentally sprays himself in the face.

Like all accidents, poisoning is preventable.

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Prevention tips
Common Poisons (Fact Sheets)
Tools for Educators
Poison Safety Checklist