Ohio sees dangerous increasing cases of accidental torch oil ingestion

Ohio is seeing dangerous increasing cases of accidental torch oil ingestion among children, especially during summer months.
Updated: Jun. 24, 2019 at 11:06 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Only a teaspoon of torch fuel oil can kill a child, doctors said. In Ohio, there are increasing cases of accidental ingestion among children and it’s causing doctors and parents to warn others about the dangers.

“He’s very energetic. He loved playing outside with his tractors, playing in the dirt," said Heather Avery.

Her son, Dylan was just two years old at the time. He was playing outside his South Carolina home. It only took one minute.

“I put my things down to turn around and go grab him, and not even a minute. It happened that fast," Heather said.

Dylan got his hands on a canister of torch fuel oil and he drank it.

“He was having it up, trying to drink it and as I was like ‘no. Don’t drink it.’ He was like ‘ohh’ and aspirated it and inhaled it into his lungs,” she explained.

The boy had chemical burns on his lungs. He was rushed to a South Carolina hospital where his right lung collapsed.

Dylan was in a coma for 10 days

For weeks it was touch and go. Dylan eventually woke up and is recovering just fine.

Cases like these are not uncommon.

19 News discovered since 2001, The American Association of Poison Control Centers estimates 18,000 people across the nation were exposed to lamp oil products.

Some families aren't as lucky as the Avery's, though.

At least four children under give years old have died from lamp oil exposure.

A 2-year-old from Oklahoma drank the oil. Just hours later, he was dead.

The reason so many children are the ones ingesting the oil is because many believe is because it looks like apple juice.

“I’m an expert. I can’t imagine a two or three-year-old making that distinction,” said Dr. Henry Spiller of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

In Ohio, more than 130 calls came into the poison center last year for children under the age of six who ingested hydrocarbons like lamp oil.

That number skyrocketed from 2017 and during the summer months alonelast year there more than 80 calls.

Dr. Spiller said sometimes kids only need to be monitored for symptoms if they accidentally ingest the oil.

In other cases, it takes only hours for a child to die.

“It injures your lungs and you need your lungs, you need to breathe," Dr. Spiller said.

In 2012, the Oklahoma family who lost their son and their attorney petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission, asking them to mandate the torch oil industry change their packaging.

The federal committee stated they didn't find evidence to support that enough children drank the fluid straight from the packaging.

The petition was denied.

“We certainly support them changing that packaging,” Dr. Spiller said.

Tiki Brand, the industry leader in torch fuel voluntarily changed their packaging in 2012, even though it wasn’t mandated by the federal government. Tiki Brand is owned by Lamplight Farms. Their brand wasn’t used in any of the cases mentioned in this story.

In a statement to 19 News, the company stated:

Still, there are concerns kids could get into these bottles.

“As a parent, you shouldn’t just trust that because it has the cap on it that your child’s safe," Dr. Spiller saiEven years after many companies changed the packaging, kids are still being sent to the hospital.

So far this year in Ohio, there have been more than 20 calls to the poison center for hydrocarbon ingestion.

Friday at 11 on 19 News, we’re asking questions about just how safe these packages are that hold these poisonous chemicals.

19 News also put our newsroom to the test to see if our staff could tell the difference between torch oil and apple juice.

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