Can Kerosene Make a Child Sick?

by Lee Grayson Google

    Kerosene can make your child physically sick, but the potential for long-term damage remains unknown, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Rural homeowners and families with vacation cabins frequently use kerosene to heat houses, and also use the oil mixture as fuel for grills and other garden tools -- this creates additional risks for your young children. Proper kerosene use and storage can help reduce the chances your child mistakenly drinks or comes in contact with the fuel.

    Kerosene fuel is a petroleum product, and the Energy Information Administration reports that Americans buy kerosene as a residential fuel oil. Rural areas use kerosene in fuel tanks for home fuel, small airports typically have kerosene tanks to supply planes and recreational vehicles also use the fuel for power. Camp lamps and small portable stoves frequently use kerosene as a fuel source. Your child can accidentally come into contact with kerosene in a variety of places, including breathing vapors, digging in kerosene-contaminated dirt and touching spilled fuel.

    Kerosene risks for children from home and business equipment include explosions, fires, poisoning by drinking the fuel or absorbing liquid through the skin, according to a study by Nicholas L. Lam, et al., entitled "Kerosene: A Review of Household Uses and Their Hazards in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, appearing in the "Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health." Emissions from using kerosene also have health risks for children, but the exact damage is unknown due to the lack of testing. The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry also reports breathing kerosene can create problems with smell and taste, but breathing large amounts of kerosene may cause bloodshot eyes, high blood pressure, loss of appetite, lack of coordination and difficulty focusing for children.

    Even small amounts of swallowed kerosene can create health problems for young children, according to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry. The negative effects of drinking kerosene include vomiting, stomach cramps, coughing and drowsiness. In addition, your child's breathing may become painful. Long-term health problems from swallowing kerosene include pneumonia, convulsions, coma and peeling skin. The National Institutes of Health recommends calling for emergency medical help when you suspect your child has swallowed kerosene.

    It's important to store kerosene fuel in metal cans with childproof caps, and mark the outside of the container with a label that clearly shows the contents. The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends storing fuel containers outside. When garage storage is necessary, select a well-ventilated area. Don't reuse kerosene containers for any other household purpose. This risks contaminating the new contents with kerosene residue. Parents should also avoid exposing children to kerosene fumes and vapors, and liquid fuel that can burn the skin. Parents should carefully clean kerosene fuel spilled in the home, garage and in soil around the house to avoid potential risks from exposure.

    About the Author

    Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.

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