essential oils
essential oils

Rise in Essential oils poisoning leads to warning

POISONING by essential oil exposure is frequent and on the rise in Australia, according to a recent study by the NSW Poisons Information Centre (NSWPIC) and the University of Sydney.

According to research published on Monday by the Medical Journal of Australia, 63 per cent of cases of essential oil exposure occurred in children under the age of 15 years.

Essential oils are aromatic, volatile liquids extracted from plant material by steam distillation and named for the plants from which they are derived.

They identified 4412 essential oil exposures reported during the four-year study period; 1387 callers (31 per cent) hadsymptoms of poisoning at the time of the call.

The number of calls increased from 1011 in 2014-15 to 1177 in 2017-2018 (16.4 per cent increase, or 5.3 per cent per year).
Most exposures were accidental (3530, 80 per cent) or the results of therapeutic error (580, 13 per cent), typically mistaking essential oils for liquid medicine, usually cough liquids (84, 14 per cent); there were 105 cases (2.4 per cent) of misinformed misuse (eg, intended ingestion of essential oils with therapeutic intent).

In 2790 cases (63 per cent), the exposed person was under 15 years of age.

The authors conducted a retrospective study of essential oil exposure calls to NSWPIC between July 2014 and June 2018.

The essential oils most frequently involved in poisoning calls were eucalyptus (46.4 per cent), tea tree (17 per cent), lavender (6.1 per cent), clove (179 per cent), and peppermint oils (3.5 per cent).

As severe toxicity can be caused by as little as 5 mL, special care was recommended around children.

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

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