American Association of Poison Control Centers Releases Annual Poison Exposure Report

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2012 report provides information about 3.3 million cases managed by poison centers nationwide.


Information about a poison exposure can be uploaded to the NPDS within eight minutes of a poison center receiving a call, making NPDS one of the few operational systems of its kind.

In 2012, America’s 57 poison centers managed 3.3 million cases, an average of more than 9,000 per day, according to the recently published 2012 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) maintains the National Poison Data System (NPDS), a large database containing information about all poison exposure cases managed over the phone by 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 managed more than 2.2 million human poison exposures, with children younger than 6 accounting for about half of all poison exposure cases, and handled over 1 million information calls in 2012.

A total of 2,937 deaths were reported in 2012; of those, 150 were younger than 20, including 46 younger than 6. Sedatives/hypnotics/antipsychotics, cardiovascular drugs, opioids, acetaminophen combinations and miscellaneous stimulants/street drugs were most frequently associated with poison-related deaths.

Poison exposures with serious outcomes have increased 4.6 percent per year since 2000. Eighty percent of poisonings were unintentional, and 16 percent were intentional. Suicidal intent was suspected in 10 percent of all cases.

“It is vital that we have a system in place to rapidly track and respond to new and significant public health threats that emerge each year,” said AAPCC President Marsha Ford, MD, FACMT, FACEP. “The NPDS provides a nationwide infrastructure for public health surveillance of poison exposures, including drug, consumer product, environmental and food poisoning. Additionally, this NPDS report underscores the value that poison centers provide through health care savings and specialized medical toxicology expertise across the country at a time when poison centers are facing a budgetary crisis.”

“Information about a poison exposure can be uploaded to the NPDS within eight minutes on average of a poison center receiving a call, making NPDS one of the few operational systems of its kind,” said Jim Mowry, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT, lead author of the report. “Poison centers are often the first to identify contaminated food outbreaks, tainted medication, drug abuse threats or other emerging public health crises because of how current our data is. The ability of the NPDS to track emerging public health threats makes it a valuable and essential model system for national and global public health.”

Other findings in the report include:

  •     About 73 percent of all cases reported to poison centers were called in from people’s homes.
  •     About 70 percent of the 2.2 million poison emergency cases reported to poison centers were treated at home, saving millions of dollars in medical expenses.
  •     The top five substance categories most frequently involved in human poisonings were analgesics (12%), cosmetics/personal care products (8%), household cleaning substances (7%), sedatives/hypnotics/antipsychotics (6%) and foreign bodies/toys/miscellaneous (4%).

“Poison centers save countless American lives and millions of American taxpayer dollars every year.” said AAPCC Interim Executive Director John Fiegel, CAE. “America’s system of 56 poison centers is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health programs in the nation. Having unfortunately lost one center due to budget constraints in 2013, this report shows the vital role that poison centers play in monitoring threats to the public’s health and in treating people exposed to poisons.”

The 30th annual report issued by the American Association of Poison Control Centers was published in the December issue of Clinical Toxicology and is available at The report was authored by James B. Mowry, PharmD; Daniel A. Spyker, MD, PhD; Louis R. Cantilena Jr., MD, PhD; J. Elise Bailey, MSPH and Marsha Ford, MD.

For more information, the media may contact Brett Schuster, communications associate, at 703.894.1858 or schuster(at)aapcc(dot)org.

About the American Association of Poison Control Centers:
The AAPCC supports the nation’s 56 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 @AAPCC, 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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