American Association of Poison Control Centers Highlights 50-Plus Years of Poison Centers

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AAPCC Observes 50th Annual National Poison Prevention Week

Without poison centers, the public’s health would be threatened in ways we haven’t seen since the 1950s.

In celebration of National Poison Prevention Month, the American Association of Poison Control Centers is highlighting more than 50 years of service from America’s local poison centers, according to Dr. Richard Dart, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

“The first poison center was formed in Illinois in 1953, and today, 57 poison centers provide lifesaving services and poison prevention information to everyone throughout the country,” Dart said. “Poison centers have been integral to the impressive progress made in poisoning prevention over the past 50 years. National Poison Prevention Week is a great time to look back at the history of poison centers, as well as to highlight the lifesaving services they provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.”

Since 1962, the third week in March has been designated National Poison Prevention Week and has focused national attention on the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them. America’s 57 poison centers are committed to safeguarding the health and well-being of every American through poison prevention and free, confidential, expert medical advice.

Dart recently published an article in the January 2012 issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine titled “The Secret Life of America’s Poison Centers.” In it, he noted how the types of poisonings and the role of poison centers have changed through the years:

  • In 1972, poisoning caused more than 200 child deaths in the U.S. By 2007, that number had decreased by 82 percent.
  • In 1983, poison centers received about 251,000 calls about poisoning exposures. Today, they receive more than 2.4 million calls about exposures to poisons and about 1.5 million calls for information.
  • Poison centers have expanded beyond their traditional role of providing advice to people calling about a poison exposure. Today, they also field calls about food- or water-borne illnesses, radiation exposure, drugs of abuse, synthetic drugs, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Today, poison centers are often on the front lines of identifying emerging public health issues,” Dart said. “For example, U.S. poison centers were the first to raise the alarm about dangerous products marketed as bath salts and synthetic marijuana sold as incense. They identified health issues associated with energy drinks and tracked the incidence of numerous food-borne illnesses. Poison centers also served as a public health hotline during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the H1N1 influenza pandemic and the 2011 earthquake in Japan.”

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison centers save countless lives and millions of dollars in health-care spending every year. More than 70 percent of the people who call with poison emergencies are treated at home and don’t have to go to the emergency room – saving an estimated $1 billion in federal and state health-care costs each year. For every $1 invested in poison centers, about $7 is saved in unnecessary health-care charges by keeping the vast majority of callers out of hospital emergency rooms and decreasing the length of hospital stays for those patients needing hospitalization.

“Poison centers have a history of more than 50 years of success and cost-effectiveness. Despite that, America’s 57 poison centers suffered a federal funding cut of 36 percent in 2011, as well as cuts at the state and local levels,” Dart said. “Further cuts would severely strain the already struggling poison centers, making it difficult to continue to provide the lifesaving services that people have come to depend on. Simply put, without poison centers, the public’s health would be threatened in ways we haven’t seen since the 1950s.”

For more information, the media may contact Loreeta Canton, AAPCC communications manager, at 701.391.0626 or canton(at)aapcc(dot)org or Brett Schuster, communications assistant, at 703.894.1859 or schuster(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 EPA, HRSA and the CDC, as well as private industry.

To learn more, visit, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or read our blog at To join your voice with other poison center supporters, register for the AAPCC advocacy network at – click on “Action E-List.”

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