April 23, 2024
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Household Cleaning Products Could Turn Pesach Purge Into Medical Emergency

“Much to our chagrin, we are witnessing a significant spike in the number of children and adults who are being seriously burned and even poisoned by household cleaning products ahead of Pesach, when parents are rushing to wash and scrub away chametz,” revealed Nurit Michelson, a nurse who works in the Burn Unit-Department of Plastic Surgery at Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

The unit is a first-level burn center that receives patients from all over Israel, as well as from abroad, which includes the Palestinian Authority. It is the only burn unit in Israel with respiratory and intensive care provisions provided in the unit itself. According to statistics, 59 percent of burns are inflicted on Israeli children under the age of 14, and 46 percent on children four years old and younger.

“As kids are usually home when parents are using heavy-duty oven cleaners and chlorine-based products in the kitchen and bathrooms, there is a natural curiosity amongst children to smell and touch. Inevitably some will spill products on themselves, which can cause a variety of chemical burns,” Michelson claimed. “And because little kids might see a bright, attractive bottle with colorless content as in the case with chlorine and other cleaning agents, well, they can’t read, so they might just go ahead and drink it. Getting it into their eyes can be dealt with by washing the area with lots of cold water and then going to the doctor. But, if a child ingests the liquid by mistake, we don’t know what damage has been done to the body until a few days later.”

Michelson also cautioned parents to not only keep a watchful eye but to be aware of the risks they face when using cleaning agents. She recommended wearing a mask and plastic gloves, guards against inhaling harmful fumes and harming the skin surface. She added, “Parents should also watch their children when they are cleaning the hot plate (blech), utensils (hagahat keilim) and burning the chametz. The hot plate is usually cleaned with a chemical agent and utensils with scalding water, which can spill onto the skin. When burning the chametz, it’s important to handle the matches carefully and keep the kids away at a distance.”

Michelson also divulged that Pesach, with its Yom Tov and Shabbat components, where candles are lit and the hot plate and urn are in use round the clock, represents a true challenge for parents with children. The metro New York Jewish community recently experienced multiple tragedies when several children and adults suffered fatal burns and smoke inhalation, as a direct result of accidental holiday and Shabbat mishaps in the home.

Michelson, who personally tends too many burn victims, recounted the story of a girl who 16 years ago was playing with her brother in the kitchen when the hot water urn fell over, burning her all over her body, including her face. She underwent 18 surgeries and, “it is a miracle she is alive.”

There are countless stories, Michelson said, “but the best stories are the ones that cannot be told, because they were prevented!”

By Ken Stephens

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