National Poison Prevention Week’s golden anniversary

With March 18-24 marking the 50th anniversary of the National Poison Prevention Week it is a good time to look back on where we have done and what we still need to do to prevent poisonings.

In 1962 when National Poison Prevention Week was established poisoning deaths among children under 5 years of age were a significant public health concern. Today, there are 90% fewer poisoning deaths among children in that age group than there were 50 years ago. This is a result of a number of poisoning prevention success stories. Here are just some of them:

1962 – President Kennedy first proclaimed the third week in March as National Poison Prevention Week to aid in encouraging the American people to learn of the dangers of accidental poisoning and to take such preventive measures as warranted by the seriousness of the danger.

1970 – Congress passed the Poison Prevention Packing Act. This act required child-resistant packaging on toxic household products such as lighter fluid, paint thinners, mouth wash, drain cleaners and medications.

1982 – The tragic Chicago Tylenol tampering case led manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to make tamper-proof, triple-sealed safety containers on all its Tylenol products within months. Other manufacturers did the same shortly after.

1993 – Battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors for household use arrived on the market.

2000 – President Clinton signed the bipartisan Poison Control Center Enhancement and Awareness Act authorizing $140 million over the next 5 years to fund the nation’s poison control centers.

2002 – The Health Resources and Services Administration launched the nationwide, toll-free poison center number, 1-800-222-1222.

2003 – The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no longer using syrup of ipecac to treat poisonings in the home.

Even though we celebrate the great strides made in preventing poisoning deaths among young children, we need to prepare for the significant challenges that we face now and in the near future:

More people die of poisonings than motor vehicle crashes.

Nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs. Drug poisoning deaths have increased 500% since 1980. Middle-age males are the age group most likely to die from a drug poisoning.

Abuse of synthetic marijuana and bath salts among young adults has increased dramatically in the last two years, resulting in harm to themselves and others while they are high.

State and federal funding for poison centers continues to be cut, meaning there are fewer staff and educational programs available to educate the general public and health care professionals about how to prevent poisonings and likely resulting in more people unnecessarily using the emergency department to treat their poisonings.

So where do we go from here? How do we plan to continue our success in addressing poisoning trends? One way is to embrace new communication tools. This month the NNEPC launched a new website and an online chat service. In addition to calling the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, website visitors can now chat with a trained health care professional 24 hours a day about their poisoning or poison question.

What can you do to help us spread the word and prevent poisonings? For starters:

1. Program your cell phone with the poison center number, 1-800-222-1222.

2. Visit our poison information index to learn more about poisons and how to prevent poisonings. Share the link with others:

3. Subscribe to our blog and sign up to receive NNEPC updates and prevention tips from our newsletters throughout the year.

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5. Follow us on Twitter:

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