4,000 children are taken to emergency departments due to injuries from cosmetic products every year: Study

For the study, researchers obtained information on patients who were treated between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2016, through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS)

Cosmetics, which include nail, hair, and skin care products, can make one feel good about themselves, but they can also be dangerous if they end up in the wrong hands.

An estimated 64,686 children, who were below five years of age, were treated in US emergency departments for injuries related to cosmetics from 2002 to 2016, according to the alarming results of a new study.

“Cosmetics, including nail, hair, and skin care products, are ubiquitous in US homes, and many are introduced for use in infants and people of all ages. The US cosmetics industry is extensive, generating an estimated $62 billion in revenue in 2016.

"In that same year, each US household spent an average of $170 on cosmetic, perfume, and bath preparation products. The wide availability of these products in the home, and the inquisitive nature of children in early development, make young children susceptible to unintentional cosmetic-related injuries, such as poisonings or burns,” say the researchers from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, and The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, in their findings.

While children below two years were most frequently injured (59.3%), poisoning was the most common diagnosis (86.2%). Further, chemical burns accounted for 13.8% of cases, reveal the findings published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

The assessment shows that nail care products accounted for 28.3% of cosmetic-related injuries, followed by hair care products (27.0%), skin care products (25.0%), and fragrance products (12.7%).

Cosmetics, in the context of the study, are “personal care products,” as defined by the National Poison Data System (NPDS), and include perfumes, hair relaxers, fingernail polishes, moisturizers, skin oils, and deodorants.

According to the researchers, these cosmetics “share a common purpose: they cleanse, beautify, promote attractiveness, or alter appearance.”

The paper says from 1999 through 2015, the NPDS documented that cosmetics were the main source of pediatric poisoning exposures, which resulted in calls to a poison center, and were the cause of seven pediatric fatalities during that time.

For the study, the researchers obtained information on patients who were treated between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2016, through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The NEISS database reports on injuries and poisonings associated with consumer products or sports and activities treated in US emergency departments.

On average, 4,312 injuries were estimated to be treated in emergency departments each year in the US. Results show that the majority of injuries involved boys (51.0%), children under two years of age (59.3%), and occurred at home (98.7%).

“Patients below two years of age contributed to 59.3% of injuries, and children two to four years of age contributed to 40.7% of injuries. The injury patterns differed by age. Children below two years of age, compared with children two to four years of age, had a greater proportion of poisonings (90.1% versus 80.7%), a lower proportion of chemical burns (9.9% versus 19.3%), and injury from fragrance (9.7% versus 17.0%). Patients below two years of age were 1.45 times as likely to have hair care product-related injuries, and more specifically, more than three times as likely to have hair relaxer/permanent solution product-related injuries compared with older children,” says the paper.

In contrast, says the study, children two to four years of age were 2.79 times as likely to sustain an injury to their eyeball, and 1.76 times as likely to be injured by a fragrance exposure compared with children below two years. Further, children two to four years of age were nearly twice as likely to be injured from a cosmetic via a contact exposure compared with children below two. These data, say the researchers, suggest that younger children are more likely than older children to be hospitalized, thereby highlighting the vulnerability of children who are less than two years old.

The analysis shows that the most frequently injured body region was all parts of the body (86.3%), followed by eyeball (8.0%) and face/ head (4.3%). Patients who were hospitalized accounted for 6.4% of all cases. Of those hospitalized, the majority were below two years of age (71.8%) and boys (58.4%). The majority of hospitalizations were due to poisoning (93.5%), says the study.

“Ingestion was the most common route of exposure, accounting for 75.7% of all cosmetic-related injuries, followed by contact (19.3%). The majority of chemical burn injuries involved contact (88.9%), while 86.3% of poisonings involved ingestion. Injuries from ingestion most frequently involved nail care products (30.3%), while injuries from contact most commonly involved hair care products (31.2%),” it says.

According to the research team, the results indicate a steady and persistent number of cosmetic-related injuries for children, which could be influenced by several factors. They said as cosmetics are commonly stored on countertops or in unlocked cabinets of bathrooms and bedrooms, they can be easily accessible to children. Further, since regular use of these products in adults is typically safe, parents and caregivers may not think of their cosmetic products as potential sources of risk or toxicity to their children. The researchers explained since children are naturally curious, and a visually appealing cosmetic product packaging is likely to attract them. Further, they add, since cosmetic ingredients are often designed to smell good (like fruits and other food types), a child may mistake it for food or drink.

“These findings demonstrate the need for increased efforts and prevention messaging to reduce the burden of cosmetic injuries. Particularly, prevention efforts need to be age-specific,” they add.