Main dangers to children 'ignored'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 1997, 12:00am

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Hong Kong is paying lip-service to the dangers posed by the leading killers of children aged one to 15, independent legislator Dr Leong Che-hung warns.


Injury and poisoning had surpassed cancer and infectious diseases and the response 'left a bad taste in my mouth', he said.


'Every year, one in 10 children are involved in accidents, 60,000 are admitted to accident-and-emergency, 7,000 to hospital for injuries. Many don't survive. Ten per cent suffer permanent damage,' he told the 9th Asian Congress of Paediatrics.


Each year more than 60 children aged from one to 15 died as a direct result of injury or poisoning.


Laws to protect children were riddled with loopholes and represented a knee-jerk reaction to certain issues, he said.


Prevention was not adequately promoted. Medical specialists at the conference presented evidence to support this view, offering the statistic that 91 per cent of poisoning cases occurred at home.


Professor Julian Critchley, of the Prince of Wales Hospital's department of clinical pharmacology, told the conference he had analysed 255 cases over the past two years from data kept by the Drug and Poisons Information Bureau and his hospital.


The most common source of poisoning was household products (39.8 per cent), such as cleaning fluid and disinfectants.


In some cases, parents did not know of the dangers of certain medicines. Red Flower Oil, for example, was lethal but some parents had given it as a drink to children, he said.


Parents left medications such as paracetamol, tranquillisers and other preparations within children's reach - which accounted for 37.2 per cent of cases.


Dr Leong said child-proof bottles were not widely used, even in hospitals. About 100 unattended children died from 1989-1993, he said.


'Do the children of Hong Kong get enough attention? The public seem to feel we need tragedy to spur the Government into action. It has left a bad taste in my mouth,' he said.


A coherent child policy and ordinance were necessary.


At the same conference, Secretary of Justice-designate Elsie Leung Oi-sie said the SAR government would not be pressed to prosecute parents who left children home alone.


'Some parents have to work: not everyone can pay for a domestic to take care of the children,' she said.