The Full Story
March 18 -24, 2012 marks the fiftieth observance of National Poison Prevention Week since President Kennedy signed the observance into law.
Fifty years ago, aspirin was sold in huge bottles. Ant baits contained arsenic. Drain cleaners were easy to open. Hundreds of children died every year from poisoning.
Now, about thirty children a year die from poisoning. These tragedies remind us that we haven't yet done enough. But, we have made progress. What has changed?
- Poison Control: Although pediatricians recognized poisons as a leading childhood danger, there was no central source of information until the early 1950's. Doctors had to look up product ingredients, one by one, every time a child was poisoned. Early Poison Control had few resources – a few books and a phone. Now, Poison Control is a highly specialized source of treatment and prevention information for health professionals and communities. And, they are available everywhere in the U.S., 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-222-1222.
- Child-resistant packaging: The first child-resistant closures were placed on aspirin bottles. After the Poison Prevention Packaging Act was passed in 1970, child-resistant packaging was required for prescription medicines, some over-the-counter medicines, and dangerous household products. Child-resistant packaging on prescription medicines alone has saved hundreds of children's lives.
- Removing or substituting products: Some very dangerous products are no longer sold. Just a few examples: Ant baits don't contain arsenic now. Wire wheel cleaners do not contain chemicals that can kill if they get on your skin. Barbiturate poisoning is rare because safer sedatives are available.
- Improved medical care: Many poisoned children survive because medical care has advanced enormously over the past fifty years. Intensive care and methods of eliminating poisons from the body are more sophisticated now than ever.
- Research: Since 1983, poison centers have gathered information about poisonings: who gets poisoned; what products and medicines cause the most poisonings; and, most importantly, which substances cause the worst poisonings. This information influences medical research, poison prevention activities, recalls, product revisions, and regulatory action.
- Poison prevention education: It's vital for parents, grandparents, babysitters, and other child care providers. Poison-proof every home where young children live or visit. Get down at their eye level – you'll find a lot that's unexpected!
Basic poison prevention messages haven't changed! They include:
- Lock medicines and household products up high, out of sight and reach of children.
- Use child-resistant packaging. Close the cap tightly after each use!
- Store medicines and products in their original containers.
- Put the Poison Control phone number on your phone and/or program your phones with the number: 1-800-222-1222.
- Make webPOISONCONTROL.org one of your browser favorites.
- Download the webPOISONCONTROL® app from the App Store or Google Play.
- If you suspect a poisoning, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 right away or use the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance.
Resources to promote poison prevention include materials, classes, web sites, videos, and a host of other choices.
- Subscribe to the The Poison Post® to get information about seasonal poison hazards, research findings, and critical poison prevention information for adults and children.
- The U.S. Health Resources Services Agency provides information and materials on-line.
- The Poison Prevention Week Council holds an annual poster contest to promote National Poison Prevention Week.
- Data about poison exposures are compiled and published by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
At Poison Control, every week is Poison Prevention Week! It is always a good time to be sure that your home, and every place where children spend time, is poison safe. If you have any questions about poisons and medicines in your own home, call Poison Control at any time: 1-800-222-1222.
Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita
For More Information
The Poison Prevention Week Council offers information about National Poison Prevention Week, including the annual posters.
Poison Control offers local information and materials. Call 1-800-222-1222 and ask for the educator.