Medicine: The Pills as Poisoner

Aspirin has long been the most common cause of the 600,000 accidental poisonings each year among children who raid the medicine chest. It still is, but it now has an unexpected and fast-closing runner-up: oral contraceptives, or "the pills." At some big-city poison-control centers, the pills are being listed in about 25% of childhood poisonings, as against 33% for aspirin.

The explanation is as simple as it is distressing, according to Lilly D. Hoekstra, administrator of St. Louis Children's Hospital. "Mothers," she said, "leave the pills in a conspicuous place so they won't forget...

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