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Changes Likely for Poison Warning Labels

February 5, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Consumer Product Safety Commission is trying to improve the poison warning labels on products, including changing one of the most familiar cautions.

The commission made public on Monday its 4-0 vote to accept a staff recommendation to drop the requirement that products containing petroleum distillates carry the warning: ″do not induce vomiting.″

Originally that warning was introduced because of the danger that a person throwing up such a product would then inhale it, leading to potentially deadly lung damage.

In recent years the range of chemicals in such products as furniture polish and lighter fluids has changed, however. So the staff recommended that warning labels vary according to ingredients, since the hazard caused by vomiting petroleum may be less, in some cases, than the danger from leaving the product inside a victim.

The recommendation was one of a series developed over the last six years by the commission’s Toxicological Advisory Board, which will go out of business May 9.

The warning will not disappear immediately, however, since it requires a formal change in the Code of Federal Recommendations, which means publication in the Federal Register and a period of public comment before final action.

The commission staff recommended several other actions, however, that do not require such formal procedure.

Those include changing its guidelines to allow warning labels to suggest methods of inducing vomiting where necessary.

While the method is usually best left to medical experts, the commission staff proposed warning labels be allowed to suggest possible methods in the event a victim could not obtain medical help.

They said syrup of Ipecac was the most effective method. Dr. Alfred Marozzi, chief of the poison prevention branch of the commission’s Directorate of Health Services, told the commission that lacking that product, he felt the next best choice might be stimulating the throat with a finger or the use of raw eggs or mustard. Salt should not be used, he said, since it can endanger children.

Marozzi said there is currently a debate in the medical community over treatment for people who swallow alkaline substances such as lye, and the commission voted to delay any possible label warning changes for such products until it can obtain more information on the hazard.

The commission also accepted its staff recommendations that it turn down two other proposals, which would have required congressional action amending the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

One was to require products containing poisonous chemicals to state not only that the chemical was present, but the amount. Industry opposed the idea, claiming it would force them to disclose trade secrets. In addition, the commission was informed that most manufacturers already make ingredient information available to poison control centers on a voluntary basis.

A proposal that product labels contain special physician alerts describing treatment for victims also was turned down as likely to lead people to try to treat themselves instead of seeking medical help.

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