Chemicals stored in soft drink bottles major cause of poisoning in children in Bangladesh, says study


Chemicals (such as kerosine) stored in discarded bottles of soft drinks are responsible for one-third of the accidental poisoning among childen in Bangladesh, says a hospital-based study. Researchers from the School of Environment and Life Sciences of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF), and Dhaka Medical College Hospital were involved in this study.

The paper, titled “Accidental poisoning in children: a single centre case series study in Bangladesh”, was published in the BMJ Pediatrics Open, a renowned British medical journal. The project was led by Dr. Mohammad Sorowar Hossain, Associate Professor at IUB's Department of Environmental Science and Management.

Accidental poisoning, which is a leading cause of unintentional injuries among children in low-income and middle-income countries, is overall poorly understood in Bangladesh. The objectives of this study therefore were to explore the socio-demographic factors and circumstantial context of accidental poisoning and the prevalence of the type of substances causing it.

Children aged between 2-5 years, and men and children with agility (65.5%) are among the most common victims. A majority of the cases (65%) have been found to have occurred in nuclear families. Most mothers (85%) of these children were non-working and most incidents (around 82%) took place in parents’ homes. Nearly 70% of the incidents took place in the presence of parents and over half of these occurred in the bedroom.

Kerosene was the prevalent cause (33%) of accidental poisoning while insecticides and pesticides ranked second (with around 27% occurrence), followed by medicines (17%) and household chemicals. In nearly one-third of the cases, chemicals were stored in soft drink bottles, while in two-thirds (67.3%) of the cases, the substances were kept in containers other than their original ones. Although over 80% parents somewhat knew that chemicals could be harmful to their children if ingested, most of them did not take any safety measures.

Findings from the study would serve as a baseline for designing future intervention studies (such as mother-centric prevention) and policies to make soft drink companies socially responsible and could also enforce the issue of child protective containers.