American Association of Poison Control Centers Releases Annual Poison Exposure Report

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2010 Report Provides Information About 3.9 Million Calls to Poison Centers Nationwide

Children younger than 6 accounted for about half of all the poison exposure calls; however, adults 20 and older accounted for 92 percent of all deaths reported.

America’s 57 poison centers fielded 3.9 million calls in 2010, an average of nearly 11,000 per day, according to the recently published 2010 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System. The 28th annual report was published in the December 2011 issue of Clinical Toxicology.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) maintains the National Poison Data System (NPDS), a large database containing information about all poison exposure phone calls to every poison center across the country. NPDS is the only near real-time, comprehensive poisoning surveillance database in the United States.

According to the report, poison experts at the nation’s poison centers treated 2.4 million human poison exposures and handled 1.5 million information calls in 2010. Children younger than 6 accounted for about half of all the poison exposure calls; however, adults 20 and older accounted for 92 percent of all deaths reported.

A total of 1,730 deaths were reported in 2010; of those, 139 were younger than 20, including 55 younger than 6. Sedatives/hypnotics/antipsychotics, cardiovascular drugs, opioids, and acetaminophen combinations were most frequently associated with poison-related deaths.

Poison exposures with serious outcomes increased 4.5 percent over the previous year. Eighty-one percent of poisonings were unintentional, and 15 percent were intentional. Of the 15 percent, 9 percent were suspected suicides.

“Poisonings continue to be a significant cause of illness and death in the U.S.,” said Alvin C. Bronstein, M.D., lead author of the report. “The NPDS provides a nationwide infrastructure for public health surveillance of poison exposures, including drug, consumer product, environmental and food poisoning. This report supports the value of poison centers and the need for specialized medical toxicology expertise across the country.”

The 2010 report also highlights the vital role of poison centers in the nation’s public health system. For example, poison centers tracked the health impact of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and raised the alarm about the emerging public health threats of designer amphetamines (Bath Salts) and designer marijuana (Spice and variants).

“The ability of the NPDS to track emerging public health threats makes it a valuable, vital, model system for national and global public health,” said Richard C. Dart, M.D., Ph.D., AAPCC president. “When someone calls a poison center, information about that poison exposure is uploaded to the NPDS within 20 minutes. Because the data is so current, poison centers are often the first to identify contaminated food outbreaks, tainted medication, drug abuse threats or other emerging public health crises.”

Other findings in the report include:

  • About 75 percent of all calls to poison centers originated in people’s homes.
  • About 71 percent of the 2.4 million people who called with poison emergencies were treated at home, saving millions of dollars in medical expenses.
  • The top five substances most frequently involved in human poisonings were analgesics (11.5%), cosmetics/personal care products (7.7%), household cleaning substances (7.3%), sedatives/hypnotics/antipsychotics (6%) and foreign bodies/toys/miscellaneous (4.2%).

“This report comes at a time when poison centers across the country are facing budget crises and underscores the valuable service poison centers provide,” said Deborah Carr, M.Ed., AAPCC executive director. “America’s system of 57 poison control centers is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health programs in the nation. Poison centers save countless American lives and millions of American taxpayer dollars every year.”

The 28th annual report issued by the American Association of Poison Control Centers is available at The report was authored by Drs. Alvin C. Bronstein, Daniel A. Spyker, Louis R. Cantilena Jr., Jody L. Green, Barry H. Rumack and Richard C. Dart.

For more information, the media may contact Loreeta Canton, AAPCC communications manager, at 703.894.1863 or canton(at)aapcc(dot)org.

The AAPCC supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning. Members staff the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 that provides free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers. In addition, the AAPCC maintains the only poison information and surveillance database in the United States, providing real-time monitoring of unusual poisoning patterns, chemical exposures and other emerging public health hazards. The AAPCC partners with federal agencies such as HRSA and CDC, as well as private industry.

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