Iron poisoning is a major cause of unintentional poisoning death in young children under 6 years of age. What, if anything, has anyone been doing about this real danger?
Researchers recently examined whether a government regulation enacted in 1997 to require unit-dose packaging of iron supplements had succeeded in reducing this problem. To accomplish this, they compared iron poisoning ingestions and related deaths in kids younger than 6 years old in the 10 years before and the 5 years after the unit-dosing regulation went into effect.
According to a study that appeared in the June 2005 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the number of iron ingestion–related deaths in the United States decreased from 29 in the years before unit dosing to just one in the years after. “This validates [that] unit-dose packaging is an effective strategy for the prevention of iron poisoning and iron poisoning deaths in young children,” the study authors concluded. “This highly effective intervention should be considered for other medications with a high hazard for . . . mortality when taken as an overdose.”
However, that is not the end of the story. In October 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked its packaging requirements for iron after a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that the FDA lacked authority to require unit-dose packaging of dietary supplements for the purpose of poison prevention.