Glow Sticks Safe Enough

Glow Sticks Safe Enough

Sept. 13, 2002 -- Those glow-in-the-dark sticks and jewelry -- sold at carnivals, concerts, and dance clubs -- are safe enough, if you don't swallow very much of the liquid, researchers say.

The study focuses on 118 people under age 25 who came to a Brooklyn poison control center. All reported exposure to the luminescent fluid in the sticks -- either the sticks had inadvertently ruptured or been swallowed intact.

Only 23% of the patients reported irritation at the exposure site -- most commonly the mouth or throat, eye, and skin, reports lead researcher Robert J. Hoffman, MD, with the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. His study appears in the September issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Four of the people felt nauseous, vomited, and had a bad taste in their mouths.

There were no cases of symptoms lasting longer than several hours, and no cases of recurrence, he reports.

Those who swallowed the intact, small glow sticks did not develop any symptoms. No one reported swallowing a large stick -- which is unlikely to occur anyway and would present a "mechanical problem" involving choking or asphyxiation, researchers point out.

"In this study, ingestion of small, intact glow sticks never resulted in symptoms, although we acknowledge the potential for airway complications that may result from ingestion of a larger glow stick," he writes.

The quantity of toxic material in glow sticks, glowing jewelry, and similar stuff is minimal, says Hoffman, quoting industry data reports.

When the fluid gets into the eye or on the skin, cleansing with water is the only treatment needed, he adds.