(HealthDay News) — Although the target markets for energy drinks are typically teens and young adults, more than 40 percent of reports to U.S. poison control centers in a three-year period involved children under the age of 6, according to research being presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, held from Nov. 15 to 19 in Chicago.

Steven Lipshultz, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, and colleagues analyzed data from the American Association of Poison Control Center’s National Poison Data System. They looked for information about calls concerning energy drink exposures to 55 different poison control centers in the system. The researchers examined data from October 2010 to September 2013. Before 2010, Lipshultz said, the system did not track energy drinks.

The findings, Lipshultz told HealthDay, show that exposure to energy drinks is a continuing health problem. Over the time period studied, there were more than 10,000 cases of energy drink exposure, with more than 5,000 being single substance exposures with contents that could be identified. Of those, more than 40 percent involved children under the age of 6. Among all reports of major problems, 57 percent involved cardiovascular problems and 55 percent included neurologic problems such as seizures. Some energy drinks have up to 400 mg of caffeine per serving, Lipshultz said, compared to about 100 mg or 150 mg in a typical cup of coffee. Poisoning by caffeine can occur at levels higher than 400 mg a day in adults, he said, and above 100 mg a day in teens. For children under 12, 2.5 mg per every 2.2 pounds of body weight can be a danger, he said.

“Leading energy drink makers voluntarily place advisory statements on energy drink packaging stating that energy drinks are not intended for children,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement. “They also have voluntarily pledged not to market these products to children or sell them in K-12 schools.”

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