Over 2 million accidental poisonings are reported annually in the United States. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 93 percent of poisonings happen at home, and 45 percent involve children under the age of 6. The majority of fatal poisonings occur among adults. Poisons are substances that, in a high enough quantity, can cause illness, injury, or death when ingested, inhaled, injected, or otherwise taken into the body.
Poisoning is the leading cause of unintentional death in this country. The leading cause of poisoning is drug overdoses; others include accidental drug or chemical ingestion and exposure to environmental substances. A drug overdose is considered a poisoning. In this case, the drug is the product that is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. Every day over 300 children require treatment in an emergency department, with an average of two deaths per day being recorded. Most of these incidents revolve around highly toxic household items such as cleaning products and medicine.
In 2001, a toll-free phone number (1-800-222-1222) was created to provide 24/7/365 access to poison center services for every American. There are 55 poison centers with staff who answer 1-800-222-1222 that are specially trained in toxicology, which allows them to rapidly assess, triage, manage, and monitor individuals exposed to poisons. Some staff also serve as educators and focus their time on developing and implementing educational and outreach programs. Poison centers serve as an easily accessible, cost-effective resource and provide access to the most up-to-date and evidence-based information on exposures to poison. The ongoing data gathering has significant potential to assist in the understanding of the public health crisis of drug abuse and drug-related deaths that exists in the United States.