This is the time of year when lawn chemicals, yard cleanups, and neighborhood events start to be exposed and available to little hands. Certainly many chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides, fuels, and cleaning agents are ubiquitous in homes and garages. But beware. Many of these chemicals are poisonous and dangerous with regard to flammability, explosiveness, and chemical burns.
Each dollar invested in poison centers saves about seven dollars in expenses not needed if the patients go into their doctor, their clinics, or their hospitals. This is a great public health service.
Over the years since the early 60's, the poison centers have become an integral part of the healthcare network. Now with the terrorism issues, the poison centers have become an integral monitoring source of information, as many times calls come to the poison centers early and often, thereby making a grid of what is happening and where it is happening.
For instance, when the bad botulism toxin product that was being used by spas and clinics that were trying to save money by not buying and using the approved botulinum toxin brand, the poison centers were seeing a problem early. Patients across the country, in pockets, were being paralyzed – not just the muscles of the eyebrow, forehead, and other smaller muscles.
The poison centers across the USA now have a single number. Depending on your area code, your call will be forwarded to the center in your area, or the one contracted by your state officials. For instance, Idaho calls go to Denver's poison center. Alaska's poison calls go to Oregon. Washington's poison center gets all of Washington State's calls. This year that number will be around 150,000 calls! Poison calls are answered by an expert group of pharmacists, nurses, Pharm Ds and have backup by physicians specializing in toxicology and poisonings. It is the number that the experts in all fields, from dermatologists to kidney specialists, call when the patient has been poisoned, or is toxic from unknown sources, or when the patient doesn't act or change based upon "normal" disease states.
The goal of Poison Prevention Week is to reduce illnesses, injuries, and deaths due to poisonings; build safer communities; and reduce unnecessary health care costs for everyone.
Here are some ways to be poison cautious:
Obtain syrup of ipecac and keep it in your home – but use it ONLY if instructed to do so by a poison center or physician
Use child-resistant containers and remember, they are not childproof
Keep products in their original containers
Never call medicine candy or take it in the dark
Return products to storage areas immediately after use
Teach children about Mr. Yuk
Put Mr. Yuk stickers on all poisonous products
Call the Poison Center for a free information packet and Mr. Yuk stickers
Keep emergency numbers next to your phone:
What is National Poison Prevention Week?
Public Law 87-319 authorizes the President to designate annually the third week in March as National Poison Prevention Week. This act of Congress was signed into law on September 16, 1961, by President Kennedy, after which the Poison Prevention Week Council was organized to coordinate this annual event. Congress intended this event as a means for local communities to raise awareness of the dangers of unintentional poisonings and to take such preventive measures as the dangers warrant.
(PC week and listing adapted from WAPC.org website with commentary from castMD.com)