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E-cigarette liquids to blame for significant increase in calls to poison centers

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -  Liquid nicotine, which is used in e-cigarettes, can be purchased in hundreds of different flavors including lemonade and bubble gum.

"You put bubble gum next to a kid, they usually would have no problem chewing it," said pulmonologist Dr. Timothy Barriero with St. Elizabeth Health Center.

The kid-friendly flavors of liquid nicotine might explain how they have gotten into the hands of more and more young children.  According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls involving e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine have significantly increased over the past several years.  In September of 2010, poison control centers received about one phone call about involving e-cigarette liquids.  By May 31, 2014, that average had jumped to 314 a month.  A majority of the 314 calls involved children under the age of six.

"Initially, one might see some vomiting. Vomiting is probably one of the most common, dizziness, sweating," said pharmacist Dr. Michael Reed with Akron Children's Hospital.

E-cigarettes and liquid nicotine are not regulated.  Therefore, it's difficult knowing what's exactly in the liquid.

"The most common products are propylene glycol and glycerine," said Dr. Reed.  "Formaldehyde, toluene, acetaldehyde a number of other compounds."

While nicotine is found in the liquid, the true concentration of it is unclear.  Some labels claim as much as 64 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter.  Compare that to cigarettes, which contain about 20 milligrams per pack.

"Even if you smoke a cigarette, you are only getting of that whole pack, you are only getting 1 mg absorption.   Here you are getting whatever is in that container," said Dr. Barreiro.

Poisonings from the liquid can occur in three ways by ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin and eyes.  Poison centers recommend protecting your skin when handling the liquid and tossing it when you're done with it.  Adults should also keep it locked up and away from kids.  A call to the poison center, 1-800-222-1222, is encouraged if someone becomes exposed.

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