Although chemiluminescent plastic rods, commonly called "glow sticks" or "light sticks," are typically considered to be minimally toxic or nontoxic, published data about exposure to these products are scarce.
To test our hypothesis that exposure to chemiluminescent products is unlikely to result in significant morbidity or mortality and to describe factors associated with exposure by reviewing reports to our urban poison control center of human exposure to chemiluminescent products.
Pediatric and young adult exposure to chemiluminescent products reported between January 1, 2000, and April 1, 2001, to our poison control center were evaluated with regard to demographic group, type of product involved, circumstances of exposure, symptoms, and management.
Reported routes of exposure (n = 118) included ingestion (n = 108), ocular (n = 9), and dermal exposure (n = 1). Only patients exposed to chemiluminescent fluid from a leaking container reported symptoms (n = 27). Symptoms were limited to transient irritation of the exposure site, and no systemic toxicity occurred. All adults (n = 4) inadvertently ruptured or swallowed intact light sticks while at a dance club or dance party. Most exposure and all adult exposure occurred on holidays or weekends.
Most incidences of exposure to chemiluminescent products involve asymptomatic ingestion of fluid that leaks from glow sticks or ingestion of an intact glow stick. Symptoms occur after exposure to chemiluminescent fluid and consist of transient irritation at the site of exposure. The clustering of reported exposure on weekends and in dance clubs and parties coupled with a lack of occupational or workplace exposure suggest that recreational use is a major contributory factor. Exposure to chemiluminescent products infrequently resulted in symptoms and the symptoms reported were minor. Exposure to chemiluminescent products as described is unlikely to cause significant morbidity or mortality.