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Toddler Dies After Drinking Citronella Oil at Chickasaw National Recreation Area Campsite


A tragic death in an Oklahoma national park underscores the need to be extra careful with hazardous materials when camping with children.

On June 9, a two-year old child died of suspected citronella oil poisoning after being rushed to Arbuckle Memorial Hospital in Sulphur, Oklahoma. The child’s family had been camping at Chickasaw National Recreation Area. After seeing the child holding a container of citronella oil fuel, the parents called the poison control center and took the child to the hospital. But it was too late. The youngster died just a few hours later.

Citronella oil, a common fuel for insect-repelling torches and lanterns (aka tiki torches, patio lanterns, or bug lanterns), can be acutely toxic. Natural citronella is used to make perfumes and other expensive aromatics, but the lantern fuel variety is typically synthesized from turpentine. The toxicology of this stuff is pretty ominous. When aspirated into the lungs, citronella oil fuel coats delicate tissues with toxic vapors, causes chemical pneumonia, and can trigger fatal pulmonary arrest. As this incident illustrates, it is especially dangerous when ingested by small children.

This tragedy underscores the need for campers to be extra careful to keep lantern fuel, charcoal lighter, cleaning fluids, and other hazardous materials out of the reach of small children.


I have visited over 150 np’s and i have never seen a caution sign about deadly chemicals. Maybe a paper list of poisonous chemical at the ranger entrance station or a sign at rest rooms and entrances or at the camping sites would be good. I feel for the Chickasaw couple's child who died. A good search of the area might have helped. I realize this is an extra expense to an already strained budget

Maybe the np assoc should spend money providing signs and paper list of chemical poisons instead of promoting gun laws that favor the crooks. You know people who have passed fbi checks and weapon training are the bad guys and the crooks who carry concealed weapons receive a lot of tv and radio attention. Think about this opinion. I mean really think about it.

Sorry i had to add this opinion. Bears, wolfs, and other potentially dangerous animals carry their concealed weapons in their mouth. It's only when they smile that you are aware they are about to use their weapon. Think about this when one is headed your way. Sorry for the soap box presentation, just had to do it,

Bill Woodard, Dallas, Texas

This warning is quite timely for me as I'm taking my Three year old son camping next weekend for the first time. I am going to let all the parents in my group know about this tragic death and use it as a reminder to keep a close watch on youngsters around dangerous supplies.

Being extra cautious is a great idea, Anita. At this very moment my wife and I are babysitting our two-year old granddaughter, and we've redoubled our efforts to make sure she can't get at anything dangerous. We just can't imagine how awful those parents must feel....

its called parent responsibility...i am sorry the child died,but lets not have the gov. put a warning on everything we do...

I am very sorry for the loss of the child but I have to agree with vernAnony. People have to take responsibility. It seems the current thinking of the American society is for the government to keep out of MY business and for the government to take responsibility of everything I want them to be responsible for, as long as they leave me doesn't work that way folks !!!

What are we going to hear next? Maybe something like: "If they want to take my citronella oil, they'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands." Look; a few comments notwithstanding, there's no body of opinion urging the NPS to adopt nanny state tactics. The message is a very simple one: parents should keep hazardous materials out of the reach of children.

"I have visited over 150 np’s and i have never seen a caution sign about deadly chemicals."

Thank goodness!

My family was there when this happened. We were two campsites down. The adults had been drinking off and on. From what we observed, they were not overly concerned with safety, sad to say.

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