E-cigarette warning as toddlers swallow liquid nicotine from refills

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British doctors have issued new warnings that toddlers are at risk of swallowing the liquid in e-cigarette refills and it only requires a few drops to make a child extremely ill.

Physicians in Birmingham reported a case of a 30-month old girl in a letter to the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. The child had been rushed to hospital after placing a refill cartridge in her mouth and starting to vomit. She was discharged around six hours later and had no further symptoms.

It was unclear how much, if any, of the liquid the little girl had ingested before her mother took her to hospital.

Experts have stated that this was the latest case to place focus on the risk nicotine liquid posed to children. They have called for public education and legislation to provide improvement to the safety profiles of e-liquid containers.

The refills are offered in varying strengths, ranging from six milligrammes per litre, which is a concentration of 0.6%, to 36mg/l, or 3.6%.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an increase in calls to poison centres during April, after refill cartridges had accidently been swallowed, the nicotine inhaled or people had spilled it in their eyes or on their skin.

There was a single call during September 2010 and 214 during February 2014, of which half of them involved children aged under five years.

The CDC stated that there was no legal ruling that the liquids are to be packed in child-proof containers and as they come in fruity and sweet flavours, children may find it appealing.

The symptoms linked to nicotine poisoning include a burning sensation in the throat and mouth, nausea, vomiting, weakness and a racing heart. More severe cases have included coma and cardiac arrest.

The letter which was signed by paediatricians based at Birmingham’s Good Hope Hospital stated that one to two drops of the 3.6% concentration could result in a seriously sick toddler. They wrote that in an adult, a dose as low as 40mg could become lethal, hence in children it is much lower.

E-cigarettes operate by the vaporisation of a liquid called propylene glycol, to which flavouring and nicotine has been added. It is vapour, rather than smoke, which is inhaled.

Critics of the device state that it has become extremely popular among young adults.

Image Credit: US CPSC

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