Supplements Killing Children?
No, but this false narrative is being pushed by the mainstream media.
Last week, a paper in the Journal of Medical Toxicology reported that calls to poison control centers concerning dietary supplements were up 50% over the period 2005-2012, with most of those calls relating to small children. The mainstream media pounced, questioning whether parents should risk storing supplements at home. As with previous attacks against supplements, however, an analysis of the underlying data shows that supplements are overwhelmingly safe products.
The Journal article cited findings from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ (AAPCC) National Poison Data System. Here’s what the straight facts from that database indicate:
Dietary supplements account for just 1.8% of all substance exposures reported to Poison Control Centers, whereas pain killers represent 11%, household cleaning products represent 7.6%, and personal care products account for 7.4%.
Supplements are not even in the top 25 substance categories with the greatest rate of exposure increase over time. Here, antipsychotics, analgesics, and antidepressants top the list. Nearly 90% of all consumer calls to America’s poison control centers are about drugs and other man-made chemicals. From 1985 to 2015, more than 14 million children under the age of 5 had to undergo emergency measures to save them from poisoning by chemical products, including drugs and personal care products such as bubble bath. Children are far more likely to die from swallowing batteries than vitamins. In 2015 alone, 42 children under the age of 5 died after ingesting analgesics, batteries, air fresheners and other chemical products – whereas not a single child died from accidentally swallowing vitamins or dietary supplements.
In 2015, a similar media outcry ignited when the US Department of Health and Human Services asserted that supplements send 23,000 people a year to hospital emergency rooms. On closer inspection, though, ANH found that 20% of the cases were the result of unsupervised children swallowing pills, and 40% involved adults over the age of 65 who choked on their pills. In other incidents, heart palpitations resulted from ingesting too many diet pills, taking sexual enhancement pills, and/or downing energy drinks. The current brouhaha is likewise slanting and “cherry picking” the data.
It’s probably no coincidence that the recent outcry is citing data from 2005-2012, when consumers’ use of dietary supplements vastly increased. Greater consumer use of any product is bound to produce more consumer questions and concerns, whether or not any actual cases of poisoning result.
While FDA-approved drugs kill hundreds of thousands of patients a year – even when properly prescribed – the mainstream media doesn’t bat an eye. Supplements have killed zero people, yet there is a consistent media drumbeat for more regulation and government oversight over dietary supplements. What is never mentioned is that supplements are already regulated, and that treating them like drugs will raise their prices to drug like levels, or more likely eliminate them entirely from stores because producers cannot afford to spend so much on non-patentable products. Do truckloads of Big Pharma advertising dollars and research subsidies have anything to do with this skewed narrative? You decide.
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