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Household Hazards: Poisons

Homeowners are liable for damages and injuries caused by known and foreseeable dangers in the home and on the homeowner’s property. Dangerous conditions like broken railings, holes, and power tools are difficult to ignore, but an even more dangerous condition often lurks in cabinets and garages: household poisons.


Always store toxic chemicals, cleaning agents, and other harmful substances in locked, elevated cabinets out of reach of children, pets, and other persons who might misuse or accidentally consume them. The danger isn’t limited to toddlers; children may try to “help” with household cleaning or self-medicate when sick. Disabled persons and Alzheimer’s patients may not recognize the poisonous nature of household chemicals and medications.

Never assume that toxic or poisonous substances are “safe” – but placing them in secure locations like locked and elevated cabinets can significantly reduce the danger of accidental poisonings and deaths.


Most homeowners realize the danger presented by toxic cleaners and other “labeled” poisons. However, many people overlook the danger presented by prescription drugs and over-the counter medications. Most medications are harmful, and often toxic, when consumed improperly or in larger than instructed doses. Even the designated dose may be lethal for small children, pets, or people for whom the medication was not prescribed.

Some drugs, (for example, hormones like testosterone or estrogen), can be harmful even if handled by small children or persons for whom they were not prescribed.

Prescription drugs and over the counter medications, as well as any other substance which may be harmful or toxic if ingested, should be kept in locked and elevated cabinets or containers where children, pets, and other at-risk persons cannot reach, touch, or consume them.


Minutes count in poisoning cases. Every home should have a list of emergency contact numbers by the telephone (or, in the case of certain telephones, programmed into the contacts). Failing to contact emergency services quickly, or to behave in a reasonable manner after a poisoning happens, may increase the risk of liability.


A homeowner’s failure to provide adequate supervision for household members, guests, and invitees may increase or create liability for injuries or accidental deaths that occur on the property. This includes poisonings as well as other accidents. Children’s curiosity is foreseeable, and children cannot be “trusted” to avoid investigating cabinets and the bottles they find within them. Children’s curiosity and self-control varies; there is no magic age at which a child can be trusted to recognize toxic substances or to refrain from touching medications and harmful chemicals. (In fact, some teenagers seek out medications in order to sell them or get high.)

Keep a watchful eye on your home, and any toxic products within it, to ensure that all poisons, medications and other potentially harmful substances are stored in locked, elevated cabinets, well out of reach of children, pets, and at-risk persons.

Accidents happen regularly because homeowners “assume” their homes are safe or that guests will leave harmful substances alone. Take the time to investigate, protect, and secure your home, to reduce the risk of dangerous or lethal accidents (as well as liability).

If you or your family members have been injured by substances in a home, and you believe the homeowner should have taken more care to avoid the incident or accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately to discuss your possible claims. Your rights may be damaged or lost if you delay.

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