IRON supplement pills are the most frequent cause of fatal poisoning among young children, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

While most parents are aware of more obvious dangers, such as cleaning fluids and bleach, they may overlook hazards such as pesticides, paraffin, antidepressants and iron pills, say researchers from Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC, and the San Diego Medical Center, University of California. They analysed 3.8 million poisonings reported in the US in children under six between 1985 and 1989.

Women with young children often take high strength iron supplements when pregnant, and to children these probably resemble sweets. The only known antidote to massive iron poisoning is too toxic to use on young children.