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Ontario Poison Centre

What is a Poison?

liquid spill

A poison is any substance that may cause harm or illness to a person because of its chemical action to the body. There can be many different routes of exposure. The most common include:

  • Swallowing
  • Splashing on the skin or in the eyes
  • Inhaling

A substance may be harmful or poisonous if taken the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. Poisons cause a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from a mild reaction to a serious illness or possible death.

Examples of common household poisons:

  • Medicine (e.g. prescriptions, over-the-counter, herbal remedies)
  • Household cleaners (e.g. all purpose cleaners, bleach, detergents)
  • Car products (e.g. windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, gasoline, oil)
  • Personal care products (e.g. cosmetics, nail polish remover, hair spray, mouthwash)
  • Plants
  • Alcohol
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Tip: Medication containers

Moving products out of their original containers is a common cause of poisoning in adults and children.

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