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Children as young as one are being treated in hospital after accidentally drinking alcohol, an investigation has revealed. The youngest victims are among 1,800 children who have been treated in London casualty units for drink-related problems in the past two years. Experts said the true scale of accidental drinking may be worse, as many incidents are not reported. They warned the rise of deliberate binge drinking among youngsters would leave the NHS struggling to cope with a surge in serious long-term illnesses such as cirrhosis.
The survey revealed that a one-year-old was treated at the capital’s University College Hospital for ‘alcohol ingestion’. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital said it dealt with two toddlers, both aged two, after ‘ accidental’ alcohol consumption. A 13-year-old boy was brought to Ealing Hospital unconscious after drinking and a 14-year-old boy was treated after mixing drink with Ecstasy tablets. The findings, based on admissions to 12 London hospitals from 2006 to 2008, will increase pressure on MPs to tackle underage drinking. Dr Rajiv Jalan, a liver expert from University College London, said children were more vulnerable than adults because their brains and organs were still developing. It’s important to understand that when a child is growing, then even small amounts of alcohol are associated with not just liver damage but also to other organs,’ he said.