Poisoning Second Only to Car Crashes in Causing Unintended Injury, Death

08/21/09  Portland, OR

Poisoning Second Only to Car Crashes in Causing Unintended Injury, Death

Unintentional poisoning is second only to motor vehicle crashes in causing unintentional injuries and deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Oregon Poison Center at OHSU alone received more than 65,000 calls about potential poisonings in 2009, and more than 48 percent of those calls involved children age 5 and younger.

The Oregon Poison Center at OHSU would like to remind people during National Poison Prevention Week, March 14 – 20, to keep medicines locked up and out of the reach of children.

“Many poisonings happen when adults are distracted for just a few minutes, either by a phone call, doorbell, or something else,” warns Tonya Drayden, R.N., public education coordinator for the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU. “It only takes a moment for a child to grab and swallow something that could be harmful.”

In 2009, the top 10 types of calls to the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU concerning children age 5 and younger involved cosmetics and personal care products, pain relievers, household cleaners, foreign bodies, topical medications, plants, vitamins, antihistamines, cough and cold preparations, and pesticides.

To prevent accidental poisoning, the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU recommends families:
  • Buy products with child-resistant caps. Child-resistant caps are not CHILD-PROOF. Once your child learns how to open them, this safety tool will no longer keep your child safe.
  • Keep medicine and cleaners locked up and out of reach. Install child-resistant latches on cabinets whenever possible.
  • Clean up after house, car and garden work. Properly dispose of all left over cleaners, sprays, and pesticides. Contact your local Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for help.

The poisoning death rate has been rising in the U.S. in recent years, the CDC reports. There were more than 23,000 unintentional poisoning deaths in the United States in 2005; almost all of them were due to medications. An estimated 703,702 patients were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2006 for unintentional poisonings, according to the CDC, and nearly 25 percent required hospitalization or transfer for a higher level of care.

For more information about poison prevention and the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University, visit www.oregonpoison.org or call 800 222-1222.