May 3, 2016

(KCCI-TV Des Moines/ Kim St. Onge)

The number of electronic cigarette-related calls to the Iowa Poison Control Center has nearly doubled in the last two years.

More than half of those calls are cases involving children under the age of 5.

What do experts believe is the cause of the increase? The bright colors on the e-cigarettes and the appealing flavors are part of the draw, experts said. Children can easily confuse the liquid nicotine bottles for a smaller bottle of juice, experts said.

"Any amount of liquid nicotine, we have to send to the emergency room," said Linda Kalin.

Dr. Doug Layton said a child ingesting just a tablespoon of the highly concentrated liquid used for electronic cigarettes can be deadly.

Swallowing smaller amounts of the liquid can still do serious damage.

"They're going to feel a little wired. The kids are going to be irritable. You're going to have palpitations. They may get sweats if the dosing is high enough," said Layton.

According to the Iowa Poison Control Center, the number of e-cigarette-related calls doubled from 2012 to 2014. It hit 47 that year then it dropped slightly in 2015.

National statistics paint a similar picture calls to poison control centers about e-cig exposure hit an all-time high in 2014, topping 3,700.

"They don't have a child-proof package. They are easily accessible and people tend to leave them out. They don't think of them as a danger," said Layton.

Poison Control officials said the concern isn't just swallowing the liquid nicotine. Any exposure to the skin or eyes can have serious consequences.

"This is just one more thing to teach parents, caregivers, grandparents, whoever is watching children under 5. This is another thing to add to the list," said Kalin.

President Barack Obama recently signed legislation requiring child-resistant packaging for the e-cigarette liquids.

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