Latest News

10/10/2012 Nitrogen cocktail drinker's stomach removed Authorities say a British teen has had her stomach removed after she ingested a cocktail prepared with liquid nitrogen, an exotic ingredient often used by bartenders to add a touch of drama to their drinks.

British media say 18-year-old Gaby Scanlon was out with her friends Thursday night in the northern England city of Lancaster when she was hospitalised after having a drink prepared with liquid nitrogen, a super-cooled version of the harmless gas.

Liquid nitrogen evaporates rapidly at room temperature, creating a cauldron effect as water condenses around the glass.

It's not clear how exactly Scanlon managed to ingest the liquid local police have said they're investigating but public health officials say it's time to take a second look at its use in bars.

The bar is not thought to have made an error in preparing the drink but The Telegraph newspaper quoted Professor Peter Barham, of the University of Bristol's School of Physics stressing the proper use of liquid nitrogen.

The temperature of the liquid is around -196C and if it is not used properly it can cause frostbite or cryogenic burns, he warned.

"As with any very hot or very cold liquid proper safety measures must be taken,'' he told The Telegraph. ''Just as no-one would drink boiling water or oil or pour it over themselves, so no-one should ingest liquid nitrogen.

"Liquid nitrogen can be used safely in the preparation of foods. However, since it is not safe to ingest liquid nitrogen due care must be taken to ensure that the liquid has all evaporated before serving any food or drink that was prepared with liquid nitrogen.''

06/09/2012 Children feature in poison centre inquiries Spare a thought for the safety-conscious parent who attached a child safety lock to their fridge, only to find their child had swallowed part of the lock's backing paper.

That incident was one of the thousands of inquiries made to the Dunedin-based National Poisons Centre, where staff advise on anything from toddlers who have ingested a contraceptive pill to people who have been bitten by a redback spider.

Figures released to the Otago Daily Times show the centre received more than 33,000 inquiries for the year ending June 30, amounting to about 90 a day, and a similar number of inquiries came via its hospital-only database.

Almost a third of those inquiries related to therapeutic drugs, including antidepressants (646), opioids (469) and anti-inflammatories (1172). Children featured heavily in the figures.

Operations manager Lucy Shieffelbien said a particular trend the centre had noted this year was the number of children being poisoned by highly toxic nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) such as gum or lozenges.

"Often they are very accessible to small children, who cannot tell the difference between NRTs and actual lollies/gum. Whilst we applaud anyone's efforts to [quit] smoking, we also need to remind them to store their gum or lozenges out of the reach of children," she said.

Information about a child who had ingested an illegal substance would not be reported to authorities as calls remained confidential, and callers would receive "prompt and appropriate advice as the health and wellbeing of the child is paramount".

This year was busy, particularly in regards to information and media requests relating to synthetic cannabinoids and huffing, Ms Shieffelbien said.

"Often we notice a correlation when something is in the media and we get a spike in calls."

About 75% of calls were in relation to actual exposure, and "we often get calls from distraught or panicked parents who are holding a child that is crying".

"We realise that children are curious little creatures and you cannot supervise them 24/7."

For staff it was often about calming a stressed caller, so they could take in the medical advice they were receiving, she said.

The centre was often at the forefront of reporting trends, and regularly advised authorities such as the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and the Environmental Protection Authority.

When those trends involved a product of a less toxic nature, then the manufacturer was contacted, as "it could be something as simple as the colour of the product that attracts children".

She confirmed some companies rang the centre to inquire if any calls had been received about their products.

She declined to name the household products that regularly topped their lists.

"It is not about naming and shaming."

A common call to the centre was for advice after a child had swallowed non-toxic silica gel - the small packets included as a drying agent with some items, such as shoes - which presented a choking hazard.

Other dangerous items around the home included nail polish, hand sanitiser, toilet sanitisers, dishwashing liquid, weedkiller, rat bait, snail pellets and plants such as black nightshade.

The key message from the National Poisons Centre was: "poisoning - you can't just kiss it better".

An estimated 75% of all poisoning inquiries could be treated safely at home with the correct advice.

28/08/2012 Plea for vigilance after latest huffing tragedy A man who performed CPR on a teen before she was pronounced dead after huffing butane says if teens gave any thought about what this did to their parents, "they just wouldn't do it".

Christchurch man Rene Heyde was the first on the scene when 17-year-old Poihaere Eru was found lying on the side of a Christchurch road. She had been huffing butane along with two friends, aged 14 and 16.

Heyde, described the scene as "surreal".

"I was just driving home from work about 4.30pm and I saw a girl lying down and there was another girl leaning over her. I thought it may have been a fight or scuffle first off, and I asked the other girl what happened and she wouldn't tell me.

"Another lady stopped and helped. We just got her into the recovery position while I called the ambulance, but then I was performing CPR while we waited for them. I was performing CPR for about 20 minutes while the ambulance got there and sorted themselves.

He said by that stage, the girl's mother had arrived.

"It was just heartbreaking. She was just there talking to her baby - willing her to live."

"I was sort of detached at the time and it was surreal. It wasn't until afterwards that I started to realise what had happened.

"I think it had really just shut down her brain."

To read more go to
View past news items

Online Questionnaire

Take our questionnaire Tell us what you think! Take our online questionnaire now.


TOXINZ ( is the National Poisons Centre's Internet database containing information regarding toxic compounds and the management of poisoned patients.

For information on subscribing to TOXINZ, contact

Welcome to the New Zealand National Poisons Centre

Kids - Click here for games The National Poisons Centre is a 24/7 Poisons Information Service available to all New Zealanders.

Provided by the Ministry of Health and ACC, the NPC maintains an accurate and up-to-date database of almost all poisonous substances in NZ and Australia, and provides professional and timely advice during poisoning incidents.

General Advice for Plants Exposures

General Advice for Plants Exposures

There are many plants in the garden, some poisonous some not. A few simple hints will help us enjoy them all safely

Plant Identification

The correct identification of the plant is very important. It is a good idea to know the names of the plants in your garden, and your pot plants, so that the correct information can be given if poisoning should occur. If you are unsure, take a piece of the plant to a Garden Centre or Botanist. Try to get both a common name and a botanical name. Once the plant has been identified, call your Poisons Centre for advice.

General Advice

Poisonous Plants

There are many plants in the garden that are regarded as internal poisons and can cause toxic effects if parts of the plant are eaten.

Many plants in the household garden can also cause effects to the skin. These can be mechanically irritating (e.g. thorns or prickles), or have sap that can cause pain, burns or dermatitis.

Non-Poisonous Plants

Non-poisonous plants are those that do not cause poisoning to humans. However, it is important to realise that plants may cause unpleasant effects even if they are considered non-toxic.

  • Non-poisonous plants can be irritating to the mouth and throat.
  • Children particularly dislike plants that taste bitter and may become distressed. If this happens, give the child a small drink or something to suck on (such as an ice-block, lolly or wet face-cloth).
  • Non-poisonous plants can cause nausea, or even some vomiting and diarrhea when swallowed.This is simply because the stomach is not used to the plant.
  • Non-poisonous plants can cause an allergic reaction when swallowed or on the skin.This can range from skin irritation or dermatitis, to an all-over rash, temperature, swelling and difficulty breathing.

General Prevention Advice on Garden Plants

  • Children should be encouraged to enjoy the plants in the garden without eating them.
  • It may not be advisable to have plants that are poisonous within reach of children.
  • Berries, flowers and other plant material which fall onto lawns or garden paths should be cleared away so that children are not tempted to put them in their mouth.
  • It is a good idea to know the names of the plants in your garden, and your pot plants, so that the correct information can be given if poisoning should occur.

First Aid for Plant Exposures - What Should I Do?

If Swallowed
If on Skin
If in Eyes

If Swallowed

DO seek medical advice from either your Poisons Centre or your Doctor.
DO immediately give a small amount of water or milk if the plant is corrosive or irritating (e.g. Arum Lily) (1/4 to 1/2 cup for a child, 1 to 2 cups for an adult)
DO NOT give a large amount of fluids
DO NOT make the person vomit without advice from a medical professional

If a person develops an all-over rash or a temperature:

Take the person to the nearest Medical Centre or Hospital as soon as possible.

If the person is having difficulty breathing:

  • Keep the person calm
  • Help the person into a position so that breathing is as easy as possible
  • Quickly ring the emergency services telephone number to call an ambulance.

If on Skin

DO seek medical advice from either your Poisons Centre or your Doctor.
DO remove any spikes or thorns that may have stuck to the skin
DO immediately flush the exposed area with lots of water
DO NOT leave plant matter or sap on the skin, even for a few minutes. They may be absorbed by the skin over time and cause poisoning or burns

If the skin is irritated:

  • Call your Poisons Information Centre
  • Apply calamine lotion or a steroid cream
  • Apply ice or a cold compress
  • Take analgesics for any pain
  • Take an antihistamine for any swelling
  • Do NOT apply ice to hands or feet as this can cut off circulation

If the skin looks burned:

  • Treat the skin the same as a thermal (heat) burn
  • Clean the skin gently with cool water
  • Apply ice or a cold compress
  • Do NOT apply ice to hands or feet as this may cut off circulation
  • If the skin is very painful, infected, or a large area is affected, take the person to a Medical Centre or Hospital.

If in Eyes

DO flush with room-temperature water for at least 15 minutes
DO seek medical advice from either your Poisons Centre or your Doctor.
DO get an eye examination performed at your Medical Centre or Hospital.

DO NOT use an eye bath solution or eye drops. Eye baths and drops do not contain enough water to flush the eye and may react with the plant matter in the eye
Do NOT use a High pressure shower to flush the eye. Showers may cause additional pain to the eye[More]

Show All Articles

University of Otago NZ National Poisons Centre

All information on this site is subject to a disclaimer.