Beware of accidental ingestion of aromatic solution! Infants may drink reed diffuser solution and get hospitalized
Recently, reed diffusers are widely used at home and other places. Reed sticks put in a diffuser bottle absorb an aromatic solution therein, letting it travel up the sticks and releasing it into the air (See the Figure).
In November 2020, the Doctor Mailbox1 received a report that an infant accidentally ingested an aromatic solution in a reed diffuser and suffered from respiratory disorder (holes in the lung). After staying in hospital for about two weeks, the infant still needed hospital visits.
Moreover, the Medical Facilities Network2 received 31 reports3 of infants' accidental ingestion of an aromatic solution in a recent decade from December 2010 through the end of December 2020.
Therefore, NCAC decided to analyze the reports and check product labels of reed diffusers on the market and ingredients in aromatic solutions therein to share precautions for using reed diffusers.
- 1 The Doctor Mailbox is a web page for doctors to inform NCAC of accidental injuries caused by products or services.
- 2 The Medical Facilities Network is a joint project by the Consumer Affairs Agency and NCAC which started operating from December 2010. The network collects accident reports on people receiving treatment at medical facilities after suffering life-threatening or bodily injuries in their daily lives.
- 3 The inquiries were examined and counted for this article.
Figure: Reed diffuser
What are aromatic solutions and reed diffusers?
An aromatic solution gradually evaporates after unsealed and lasts for several months, until almost no liquid remains. Mostly it is absorbed by and evaporated from filter paper, unwoven cloth, sponge, thin strips of bamboo or others so that the aroma components will be gradually released into the air. Reed sticks are used for reed diffusers. You can adjust the strength of scent release by changing the number or diameter of reed sticks.
There are variety of aromatic solutions on the market. Some of them contain water, 10 percent ethanol, botanical extracts, a few percent organic acids, and 10 to 20 percent surface active agent. There are also low-volatile aromatic solutions containing fragrance additives or essential oils diluted with a solvent (30 to 70 percent isoparaffin hydrocarbons or glycol esters). It is said that ethanol, hydrocarbons and glycol esters stimulate mucous membranes and produce central nervous depression. If any of these liquids gets in the eye, it may cause pain and reddening of the eye. Ingestion thereof may cause nausea and vomiting. Ingestion of a larger amount may cause disturbed consciousness. Aspiration may cause aspiration pneumonia.
Partially excerpted from "Initial response to acute poisoning based on circumstances" edited by the Japan Poison Information Center (p.283-288)
Accident report received by Doctor Mailbox
In November 2020, the Doctor Mailbox received a report that an infant accidentally ingested a reed diffuser solution and got hospitalized.
- An infant accidentally ingested a reed diffuser solution. Chest computed tomography scans showed holes in part of the lung.
Photo 1. Chest computed tomography scan taken 7 days after the accidental ingestion
(Holes are marked with triangles)
Photo 2. Chest computed tomography scan taken 7 days after the accidental ingestion
(Holes are marked with triangles)
Accident reports received by the Medical Facilities Network
The Medical Facilities Network received 31 accident reports in a recent decade from December 2010 through the end of December 2020 that infants aged three or younger accidentally ingested an aromatic solution.
Common cases of accidental ingestion or aspiration
- [Case 1]
- An infant accidentally ingested a reed diffuser solution. He could have suffered from aspiration pneumonia.
- [Case 2]
- After ingesting a reed diffuser solution, an infant showed poisoning symptoms.
- [Case 3]
- An infant reached a reed diffuser on a one-meter-high shelf and ingested a solution in it.
NCAC chose 10 brands of reed diffusers from hot-selling products in online shopping malls ("Amazon.co.jp", "Yahoo!shopping" and "Rakuten-Ichiba"), department stores, home centers, drugstores and chain stores in Sagamihara, Yokohama and Machida cities to check labels on products or packages and ingredients of aromatic solutions.
(Purchase of samples: from November 2020 to January 2021, Investigation: from December 2020 to February 2021)
- All the ten brands indicate that the products shall be placed out of reach of infants.
- All the ten brands are labeled "undrinkable". Six brands indicate to get immediate medical attention in case of accidental ingestion of the solution. Other two brands indicate to get immediate medical attention in case of abnormality when drinking the solution.
- Four brands indicate not to try to get a victim to vomit, without mentioning any reason.
- Two out of the ten brands indicate to get medical attention when the solution gets in the eye. Other six brands indicate to get medical attention in case of abnormality when the solution gets in the eye. Eight brands indicate emergency therapy (e.g. to rinse the eye off with running water).
- Seven out of the ten brands indicate to prevent the skin and clothes from contacting reed sticks absorbing an aromatic solution or the solution itself. Six brands indicate to get medical attention in case of abnormality when the skin touches reed sticks. Nine brands indicate emergency therapy (e.g. to wash the contact area with soap and running water). Three out of the nine brands indicate the reason (risk of irritated skin).
- When examining ingredients, other than water, of all the ten brands, isoparaffin hydrocarbons have been detected in samples of six brands. Ethanol and glycol esters have been detected in samples of the remaining four brands.
Advice to consumers
- Place reed diffusers out of reach and sight of infants.
- If an aromatic solution gets in the air tube, it may cause chemical pneumonia. In that case, do not try to get a victim to vomit. Consult your doctor immediately.
- If an aromatic solution gets in the eye, rinse the eye with running water immediately. If an aromatic solution touches the skin, wash the contact area with soap and running water to avoid irritated skin.
Request to the Air Fresheners & Deodorizers Conferences
Promote safety measures and raise consumer awareness to ensure that aromatic solutions are kept and placed out of reach and sight of infants.