Daily life
2 min

Leave household products in their original containers!

Over the 2017-2021 period, more than 33,000 accidents caused by the decanting of household products were recorded by poison control centres in France. While many of these accidents were not serious, around 100 had severe consequences and five deaths were reported. ANSES is reiterating the precautions you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones on a daily basis.

What is decanting and what are the related risks?

Decanting is the act of transferring a product into a container that is different from its original packaging and is not intended for this purpose. For example, when a floor cleaning product or bleach is transferred to a plastic bottle, it is said to have been decanted. In the absence of a label and hazard symbols, the new container no longer shows any information about the nature of its contents or, above all, about the potential associated risks and precautions for use. More often than not, it also lacks the safety cap required for certain products.

Preventable deaths

An analysis of calls to poison control centres found that 33,650 accidents that had occurred over the 2017-2012 period were linked to decanting, i.e. around 6,000 accidents per year. The vast majority of the cases of accidental ingestion were asymptomatic or of low severity. Nevertheless, 108 high-severity cases were reported, including 17 in children under the age of 15. A third of these people experienced after-effects from their accident. Five deaths were recorded, including one involving a three-year-old child. Most of these accidents were due to corrosive cleaners or disinfectants being decanted into plastic bottles.

Five recommendations to reduce the risk of accidents:

  • Avoid decanting products: not only do you risk forgetting what the new container contains, but you also lose valuable information such as the name of the product and the instructions and precautions for use. If poisoning does occur, this information will enable poison control centres or doctors to accurately assess the toxicological risk and adopt the best therapeutic strategy.
  • If decanting is absolutely necessary, for example when a product is sold in refill packs to be diluted, the product should be transferred to a container suited to its chemical nature, with a safety cap if the product poses a hazard. The name of the original product should be clearly marked on the container, whether the product has been diluted, and the unique formula identifier (UFI) of the decanted product should be photographed: this 16-digit code, placed next to the name or hazard information, enables poison control centres to identify the commercial reference and its composition.
  • If you have bought a bulk product, you should use an appropriate container, recycling the original container if possible (when buying a refill); then affix the label provided by the store or write all useful information on a label, including the name of the product, the precautions for use, and the batch number.
  • Never put household products in the refrigerator, and keep food and drink in a separate place from household products.
  • Put away decanted products carefully, out of the reach of children and preferably in a locked cupboard.

If a product is accidentally swallowed, immediately dial:

  • 15, 18 or 112 (114 for the hearing impaired),
  • or 01 45 42 59 59 (24/7 emergency number in France) to contact a poison control centre.