There was only a little bit of windshield washer fluid left in the jug so. . .

 I put it in a smaller empty plastic bottle.

In a 2 year retrospective study on the causes of methanol poisoning — presented at the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology this year — 30% of the methanol exposures (the toxic ingredient in most windshield wiper fluid) that were called into the Illinois Poison Center occurred because someone transferred leftover windshield wiper fluid to another container.  While the person who transferred the fluid knew it was not for consumption, the next  unsuspecting individual who came along mistook the liquid for a refreshing “blue raspberry drink”, Gatorade, juice or some other tasty beverage.  We’ve heard this exact scenario over 40 times in the 2 year study period.

Some of the non-original containers used in these unintentional poisonings included:

  • Water bottles
  • Gatorade bottles (blue Gatorade anyone?)
  • Soda bottles
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Other unmarked bottles
  • Drinking glasses
  • Even a shot glass (just enough to  possibly kill a 20 pound toddler)

So how toxic is windshield washer fluid?  One to two teaspoons is enough to seriously harm or kill a small child.  The larger the person, the more it takes to cause harm due to differences in weight, but very small amounts can be lethal to a smaller person.

Ingesting significant amounts of methanol can cause:

  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain
  • Blindness
  • Heart irregularities
  • Seizures, coma
  • Death

With the temperature in the 20’s, snow flurries in the air and frosted over windshields, now is the time people are checking their wiper fluid levels and topping off the reservoirs.  While it is safe and prudent to do so, please remember to keep all chemical products in their original containers, even if there is only a little bit left.  If you or someone you know has ingested windshield wiper fluid or another potentially harmful substance, please call the poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Our specially trained experts are available 24/7, everyday of the year.

Have a safe and happy Holiday Season!

For other winter poison prevention tips click here.

If you would like to tell us your experience with the Illinois Poison Center click here.

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By Mike

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