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Calls increase to NJ Poison Center on e-liquid nicotine poisoning

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On March 12, 2015, the Bergen Record reported that the NJ Poison Center issued a warning about the serious risk to health, and even of death, from liquid nicotine absorbed into the body.  Liquid nicotine is commonly used in electronic smoking devices like e-cigarettes, e-hookah and hookah pens.  Many of the devices are refillable by the user, and the refills can come in small plastic bottles or vials. According to the story, symptoms of liquid nicotine poisoning include vomiting, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, and a jittery and unsteady appearance.
Small children and pets are at risk for ingesting the liquid nicotine or spilling onto their skin where it is absorbed into the body.
  • The number of related calls to the NJ poison control centers grew from nine in 2011 to 45 in 2014, according to state health officials who announced the warning Thursday. So far in New Jersey this year, there have been eight calls to poison control, including two from the parents of toddlers who put the devices in their mouths. The parents rinsed out the children’s mouths and they were OK, Marcus said.
  • Nationally, the poison control centers have seen a dramatic rise in e-cigarette related calls, from one call a month in September 2010 to 215 calls a month in February 2014, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. More than half of the calls involved children age five and under. 
  • Federal health officials said the nicotine poisoning problem may be underestimated because their research only reports calls to poison control centers and doesn’t include cases where someone called 911 or went directly to the emergency room.
Adults are also at risk for nicotine poisoning. The story reported two recent incidences of adult nicotine poisoning and reaction:
  • Earlier this week, an adult male called complaining of feeling jittery after a vial of liquid nicotine leaked on his pant leg, Marcus said. He was told to remove the pants and clean the area. In other cases a school nurse in Gloucester County called after a 17-year-old student said a classmate blew smoke in his face and he felt dizzy. A 21-year-old man from Union County called to say he was not feeling well after smoking an e-cigarette.
  • A woman who was smoking a device in her car said the vapor made her eyes irritated and she sought treatment at a hospital.
Anyone who suspects a child or adult has been exposed to liquid nicotine should call the NJ Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.