Did you know that 90% of poisonings happen in the home? One common place to find poisons in your home is the garage! Most people have car care products stored in their garage. Not only do we need to keep ourselves safe when using them, but also keep kids safe whenever they visit your garage. Below we look at nine car care products and the dangers they can pose. Any of these products can really put the brakes on your day! Always store these products up, away, and out of sight.
The concern with gasoline is a person can choke on it if they drink it. If they do choke, sometimes it can enter their lungs and cause serious pneumonia that may need treatment with oxygen, x-rays, and medicines at the hospital.
Similar to gasoline, when someone drinks motor oil, they often choke. If they choke, it can coat the lungs and lead to serious pneumonia that may need treatment in the hospital.
Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid is a liquid used in the steering system of a car to make the wheels easier to turn. Like gasoline and motor oil, this fluid is a choking risk. If it enters the lungs, it can also lead to serious pneumonia.
Antifreeze can be dangerous, even if it is only a very small taste. It contains a chemical, ethylene glycol, that when broken down by the body can do permanent damage to the kidneys. Fortunately, there is an antidote (treatment) that can stop this process, but it must be given as soon as possible.
Brake fluid is used for a car to stop properly. It is dangerous because many of these fluids contain chemicals called glycol ethers, which are broken down in the body to ethylene glycol, the same dangerous component mentioned in antifreeze above.
Windshield Wiper Fluid
Windshield wiper fluid is the blue liquid your car sprays to clean the windshield. Even a very small drink of this liquid can be concerning as it contains the chemical methanol. The body breaks down methanol to a chemical that can damage the eyes and lead to permanent blindness. Other effects such as kidney damage, effects on the heart, seizures, and coma can happen. There is an antidote (treatment) available, but it must be given shortly after the ingestion.
Gas additives are designed to improve fuel performance. A variety of different chemicals are used in additives. Some additives, like windshield wiper fluids, may contain methanol and cause effects as mentioned above. Other additives may contain alcohols that can lead to drunkenness and severe vomiting. There are even others that may contain chemicals that pose a risk for choking and pneumonia.
Wheel Rim Cleaners
Wheel rim cleaners sometimes contain hydrofluoric acid that can lead to serious burns if it gets on the skin. These burns may look very minor in appearance but can be extremely painful. If ingested, even in small amounts, it can lead to internal burns and interfere with the body’s balance of calcium and potentially cause serious trouble with heart rhythm. Skin exposed to smaller amounts and lower concentrations of the acid may not immediately show signs of damage. However, later the area may become very painful, red, and blistered. Skin exposed to larger or higher concentrations of acid will show damage sooner. Exposures to wheel rim cleaners often need to be treated in a hospital right away.
Glass Window Cleaners
Glass cleaners may contain a variety of ingredients such as detergents, alcohols, or ammonia. These can be irritating to the mouth or skin, especially if not cleaned up promptly. In large ingestions, they can lead to nausea and vomiting.
One of the best ways to prevent children, visitors, and pets from being exposed to these products is by practicing safe storage. All of these items should be stored up, away, and out of sight. If possible, store these items in a locked cabinet to keep your family safe. It is also important to keep these products in their original, labeled containers. Never store products in food or drink containers such as a water or soda bottle. Many of the above products are similar in color to beverages and can be easily mistaken.
If you or your child make an unexpected pit stop in your garage and are exposed to these products, call the Maryland Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for assistance. Our nurses and pharmacists are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year to help you. Depending on the product and how you were exposed, we may have you rinse the skin or eyes at home or drink a small amount of milk or water. Some people may also need further treatment at a hospital. It is best to call the poison experts first so they can decide what is best for your specific situation.
Amber Ferrell, PharmD
Certified Specialist in Poison Information