Essential oils causing more calls to poison control, but users say not to worry

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Essential oils are all the rage in the holistic health community, but South Carolina’s poison control center, Palmetto Poison Control, says it has seen an 18 percent increase in the number of the calls recently because of them.

Pharmacists at the center attribute the increase to the high demand for the popular products and how intriguing they can be to children.

Monica Pelletier, an Isle of Palms woman who sells essential oils, agrees.

“The amount of people using them is just skyrocketing,” Pelletier said. “They are the life blood of the plant, so if you brush up against rosemary and you get that smell on your hand, that's essential oil.”

She’s also an avid user. They keep things in her life calm.

“At my house we use them a lot for mood. I have two boys that sometimes have hard times so we use a lot of them to calm them down.”

She said they can also be used instead of common household cleaners, but she’s done her research.

“I think that people need to know how to use them,” Pelletier. “I don’t encourage people to just go to the store and buy them. The FDA doesn't regulate essential oils very much. They basically say that 10 percent essential oils is enough to say that it is 100 percent essential oils.”

Palmetto Poison Control is also keeping a close watch.

“Most of our calls are kids accidentally getting into it,” said Jill Michels, managing director. “It tends to be adults who are using the product at home and 2-year-olds and 3-years-olds being what they are and curious, it's an accident them getting into in.”

The center had 182 calls statewide last year and 54 calls since January.

“If we continue on this rate, we'll have a much higher rate than last year,” explained Michels.

Certain oils, like wintergreen, cause more concern than others.

“Oil of wintergreen is similar to an aspirin type product, and it's very concentrated and can cause harm if ingested in a small amount for a child,” said Michels.

Pelletier also wants to people to know the bottles, although little, pack a big punch.

“In one little 15 ml bottle, it takes about 75 lemons for that,” she explained. “They're not a medicine but you need to treat them as if they were a medicine, with the same respect.”

Michels asks parents to keep the bottles out of reach of children. She even suggested a locked safety box as a proper storage container.

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