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Poisons Information Centre

13 11 26



Energy drinks: health risks & toxicity

The Medical Journal of Australia this week published research conducted at the NSW Poisons Information Centre on caffeinated high-energy beverages. The study was authored by Dr. Naren Gunja (Medical Director & Toxicologist) and Jared Brown (Senior Poisons Specialist) who looked at the last 7 years of calls to NSW PIC. The study found that almost 300 calls were received between 2004-2010 where an adverse event had occurred following energy drink exposures. The median age of the cases was 17 years, indicating that the problem was most prominent amongst adolescents and young adults, who were drinking these beverages recreationally. Another issue of concern was the mixing of energy drinks with alcohol and recreational stimulants (such as ecstasy and amphetamines). Common symptoms from energy drink exposures were cardiac (palpitations, arrhythmias), behavioural (agitation, restlessness) and neurological (hallucinations, seizures). These adverse events can be attributed to the high caffeine content of energy drinks and resulting caffeine toxicity. The authors concluded that better information, labelling and regulation of energy drinks was warranted. The article is available at


NSW Poisons warns against BBQ embers in confined spaces

Bringing the leftover embers of a BBQ into a living area could have disastrous consequences for families, experts from NSW Poisons are warning. Within the last few weeks, the Poisons centre has handled several cases of families presenting after using their leftover BBQ embers as a heating source. The most common scenario is that families will take the embers from a BBQ after they finish cooking to keep their home or tent warm for the night. While these may warm the area for a short period, they also can cause carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO is a toxic gas formed from incomplete combustion of fuel and can cause unconsciousness, seizures and other harmful effects. Babies and children exposed to BBQ embers within confined spaces are more susceptible to CO poisoning.

Click here for the Media Release Adobe PDF Document


Death cap mushrooms

NSW Poisons, along with ACT Health, warns of the dangers of toxicity from field mushrooms. Autumn is a common time for city and country folk alike to go mushroom picking. NSW Poisons Centre receives many calls each year regarding serious illness from toxic mushrooms, which can appear similar to everyday edible mushrooms, to even experienced mushroom-pickers. Dr. Naren Gunja was recently interviewed on ABC Radio (Drive with Richard Glover, Monday 29th March), and warned of several toxic mushrooms species which can be found in Eastern Australia, in particular the "death cap" - Amanita phalloides. This white-gilled mushroom is responsible for the most number of mushroom-related toxic deaths worldwide. The public should also be aware that the death cap mushroom can appear similar to edible mushrooms, particularly if juvenile or small. Should you experience any symptoms following mushroom ingestion, please contact the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 urgently.

ACT Health Fact sheet on Death Cap mushrooms Adobe PDF Document


Summer Bites

The NSW Poisons Information Centre has been busy over the summer dealing with numerous snake and spider bites. With the warmer weather coming on earlier we have noticed an increased frequency of snake bites occurring earlier in the summer than usual.

If you live near the bush or are planning to bushwalk, please keep a splint and crepe bandage handy in case of snake bite. Information on what to do if you are bitten by a spider or snake can be found on our Bites & Stings page, including how to apply a pressure immobilisation bandage. A fact sheet can be downloaded here Adobe PDF Document

Click here to read the 'Summer Bites and Venom Flows' news article in The Australian.


The Children's Hospital at Westmead has made headlines this week in a breakthrough discovery of a poisonous substance in the Bindeez beads toy.

Congratulations to our staff at the NSW Poisons Information Centre, Emergency Department and Biomedical Genetics for this diligent, speedy discovery, in particular to Scientist Kevin Carpenter, Dr Naren Gunja and Simon Gilmore of the Poisons Information Centre.

After two patients presented with similar symptoms, quick detective work uncoverered the swallowed chemical in the bead changed to GHB (liquid ecstasy) in the body. This work and its prompt communication in the interests of public health has saved other children from ill-health and this has been recognised by NSW Health who issued a media release giving credit to the Hospital.

The Deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant said scientists and clinicians at The Children's Hospital at Westmead had identified the cause of illness affecting two children admitted to the Hospital.

"The persistence of the clinicians and scientists at The Children's Hospital at Westmead led to the successful identification of the toxin that had affected the two children."

Please click here Adobe PDF Document for more information.

This document was updated on Monday, 23 January 2012.

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