Even homes can be toxic, if chemicals aren't properly stored or disposed of.
The environmental group EcoWaste Coalition on Monday cautioned the public against mishandling hazardous household substances even as it noted the devastating effects of substance poisoning on the human body.
The group issued the warning in a seminar at the Quezon Memorial Circle, where it presented eco-friendly substitutes for toxic household products.
Resource speaker Dr. Erle Castillo, president of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology, said around 800 children were referred to the Philippine General Hospital(PGH) yearly as a consequence of acute poisoning.
Patients under 18
A large number of the poisoning incidents involving children-patients younger than 18-are accidental or caused by exposure to common household agents, Castillo said.
"Next to pharmaceuticals, PGH listed household cleaning agents as among the frequent causes of poisoning cases admitted to the hospital," Castillo said.
The toxicologist told seminar participants that based on 2009 data from the National Poison Management and Control Center, 55 per cent, or more than half, of poisoning patients were children.
Cited as the common causes of pediatric poisoning were silver jewelry cleaner, isopropyl and ethyl alcohol, pesticides, kerosene, bleaching agent sodium hypochlorite, button batteries, chlorine granules, muriatic acid and methamphetamines.
Castillo said that while there were "acceptable levels" of exposure to chemicals, families should still take an inventory of the chemicals in their households and store them properly in containers and locked cabinets.
"Chemicals are part of our lives, but we want to minimise the levels of exposure to minimise risk of illness. Prevention is the first [concern]. You can't change a chemical's toxicity, but you can [minimise] exposure to it," Castillo said.
EcoWaste treasurer Ochie Tolentino presented during the seminar eco-friendly alternatives to toxic household agents, such as baking soda instead of bleach for cleaning.
Tolentino said there were at least 51 uses for baking soda, among them as toothpaste, deodorant and insect bite treatment.
Tolentino suggested the use of certain plants, such as citronella or lemongrass, and citrus fruits to repel insects and rodents and to freshen the air, instead of using sprays.