In 2018, the IWK Regional Poison Centre fielded three times as many calls related to all cannabis products as they had in 2015. This year’s Poison Prevention Week (March 17-23) focuses on raising awareness of the poisoning risks of edible cannabis and liquid nicotine in children. The IWK Regional Poison Centre and Child Safety Link would like to remind people that these are drugs and just like alcohol and prescription medications, they can cause serious harm to children and need to be stored securely.
Poison centres across Canada have reported increased exposures to cannabis since legalization, including for those under 18 years of age. The most notable increase has been exposure to concentrated cannabis products and food containing cannabis, especially in children 12 years old and under. Liquid nicotine exposures have also increased in the past few years.
“Children are more sensitive to the effects of the active ingredients in cannabis,” says Laurie Mosher, clinical leader of the IWK Regional Poison Centre. “Parents may not realize that children have eaten a toxic amount of a cannabis or nicotine product until they have symptoms such as profound drowsiness and other serious symptoms.”
Adults who choose to use cannabis or liquid nicotine need to protect children in their homes, urges Julie Harrington from the IWK’s Child Safety Link. “Right now, there are no regulations for safe storage of cannabis products, such as child-resistant packages or warning labels. That’s why it’s crucial to store all cannabis products in a locked space or container, out of the reach of kids.”
Although food with cannabis won’t be legally sold in Canada until October 2019, parents and other adults need to remember that cannabis edibles are the same sweet snacks that most kids love such as brownies, cookies and candy-except that they contain cannabis. A child can’t see the difference between a food product with cannabis and the same product without cannabis. Liquid nicotine also has flavours that are appealing to children. A small child may eat/drink the liquid nicotine thinking it is candy.
If you choose to have cannabis in your home, there are some things you can do to help ensure children are not unintentionally exposed to the drug. Child Safety Link, the IWK Health Centre’s injury prevention program, offers these safety tips:
Cannabis Safety and Exposure Prevention tips
- Clearly label all cannabis food products in your home.
- Store cannabis food products, liquid nicotine, and medications in a locked place children can’t reach or in a lock box.
- Keep cannabis food products separate from other food.
Use and supervision:
- Never use cannabis in any form in front of children.
- Clean up any cannabis food waste, medications and e-cigarette products immediately after use.
- Talk to family members, friends and caregivers about the importance of keeping these products away from children. Unintentional poison exposures can happen when visitors bring cannabis, liquid nicotine or medications into your home, so ensure their bags and jackets are stored in a safe place away from children. Also be sure to ask about safety measures in place when your family visits another home.
- Keep the number of your local poison control centre number near the phone. If your child eats cannabis, liquid nicotine or any other medication, contact your provincial poison information centre. If your province or territory does not have a poison control centre, dial 911.