Notes on Child Nicotine Poisoning and E-Cigs

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The electronic cigarette community is a bit touchy about inflated danger claims the FDA, media, or other organizations might make about electronic cigarettes.  It’s hard enough to fight the assumed guilt attached to anything that looks and acts like a cigarette.  But when local level media act like they have the inside scoop or the real story, but are using inaccurate danger claims from more than 2 years ago, even we feel the sting.

One of Saint Louis’s local news stations is doing a week-long look at What’s Poisoning Our Kids.  Their first look: electronic cigarette e-liquid (the liquid e-cigs vaporize).  You can watch the report here.

According to the report, “Experts also say e-liquid, absorbs quickly and can lead to nausea and vomiting. And because of the concentrated amount of nicotine, there’s a high risk for seizures and even death in children.”

We decided to do a little research and see what we could find.  Let it be known that we are not medical experts and would love to have a true medical expert with an understanding of nicotine poisoning provide us with more specific information.  But until we can find one, we’re stuck with our understanding of e-liquid and the internet’s understanding of nicotine poisoning.

For a child, the LD50 (that is, the dose necessary for a 50% chance of death) is around 10mg.  This really isn’t that much.  A 5ml bottle of e-liquid with a nicotine rating of 12mg has 60mg of nicotine in it.  This is actually enough to hit the LD50 of an adult that doesn’t smoke–presuming they’re dumb enough (or inebriated enough) to drink the bottle.  So should parents with e-liquid keep it away from kids?  Hell, yes.

Although the variety of flavors available is one of the major advantages the e-cig market currently enjoys, a toy-sized bottle that says cherry or chocolate or banana pudding on it in colorful letters does need to be kept under lock and key.  If kids are willing to try their parents’ nicotine patches or nicotine gum (two sources of a few nicotine poisonings), they’ll definitely try a bottle of nicotine liquid.

That’s not the only concern.  Nicotine can be absorbed through the skin very easily–so easily that nicotine harvesters are known to get green nicotine poisoning just from exposure to tobacco leaves.  A quarter milliliter of e-liquid can be more than enough to cause problems for a child if it is absorbed into the skin.  From there, nicotine goes straight to the blood stream.

Most cases of nicotine poisoning can be treated and individuals that survive the first 4 hours generally return to their full health.  The point of all this is that chances shouldn’t be taken.  Parents that use e-liquids should treat them the same way they do drugs, cleaning supplies and beauty products.

Common signs of nicotine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, weakness, paleness, fainting, seizures, and stomach pains.  In the event of nicotine poisoning, seek medical attention immediately.

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