A poison is any substance that is harmful if too much is eaten, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin. Poisoning remains the top cause of injury death in the U.S., and while the main cause of unintentional poisoning death is opioid overdose, almost any substance can be poisonous if used the wrong way, in the wrong amount, or by the wrong person. Common substances about which people call Poison Control include cosmetics, vitamins, hand sanitizers, pesticides, opioids, electronic-cigarettes, prescription drugs and topical medications.
Definition: The CDC defines poison as any substance that is harmful to your body when ingested, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin.
Magnitude of the Problem:
- According to the CDC,
- In 2009, 76% of the 41,592 poisoning deaths in the U.S. were unintentional, and 8% were of undetermined intent
- In 2009, 14% of the 41,592 poisoning deaths in the U.S. were intentional; the majority were suicides
- In 2008, 91% of unintentional and undetermined poisoning deaths were caused by drugs (this includes prescription medication)
- An estimated 71,000 children 18 years or younger went to the ED each year due to medication poisonings between 2004 and 2005; over 80% were due to unsupervised children finding and taking medications.
- According to the Health Resources and Services Administration's Poison Help project, 51% of poisoning exposures occur in children under age 6
Prevention: Poison Control Centers can be valuable resources in helping to prevent poisonings in communities. They can also be cost saving services for states, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for every dollar spent on Poison Control Center services, $7 is saved in medical spending. Raising awareness about poison prevention resources can be done through National Poison Prevention Week, which occurs every March. National organizations like the Home Safety Council and the American Association of Poison Control Centers can provide educational materials to help individuals understand common poisons found in the home, and steps to take to reduce risks and help keep children safe.
Synthetic cannabinoids, misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana” are human-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices. (1)
Cold weather easily brings to mind hot chocolate, roaring fires, and snowmen, but the winter months also bring an increase in carbon monoxide poisonings.