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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.


Sometimes people just don't realize that some commonly used substances are toxic and just need to be told so that they can then be responsible. I don't see anything wrong with informing people of things that can harm them or their loved ones!

Parent's Responsibility. Period.

It is so sad the loss of a love one, but blame can not be put on the Parks for parent’s negligence. Parents must be responsible for their kids at the camp site Drinking and Kids do not MIX

The last commenter is wrong [about the alcohol rule]. According to the park regulations, alcohol is permitted in picnic areas and campgrounds.

This person is a liar. No alcohol is permitted at the park and none was at this small child's party.
[Ed: Alcohol is permitted in the campground area at Chickasaw.]

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.

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

Thank goodness!

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.

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