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Unintentional poisonings are a global health concern. Pesticides, kerosene, household chemicals, and carbon monoxide are common sources of fatal poisonings.90 According to the World Health Organization (WHO) International Programme on Chemical Safety: Poison Prevention and Management, in 2012, approximately 193,460 people died worldwide from unintentional poisoning, 84% occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Nearly 1 million people die each year as a result of suicide. Approximately 370,000 deaths result from the deliberate ingestion of pesticides. In addition, an estimated 5 million snakebites occur annually, resulting in at least 100,000 deaths. As of June 2016, only 45% of WHO member states had a poison control center (PCC).

Systematic reviews and meta-analysis conducted of poison prevention studies report that poison prevention interventions improve practices. Interventions that distribute home safety equipment along with education are recommended. However, there is a lack of program outcomes demonstrating a reduction of childhood poisoning rates.1,37,91 This chapter focuses on programs in the United States that aim to prevent unintentional poisonings and improve access to PCC services.

Healthy People 2020 is a US federal program that outlines the health goals for the nation. These overarching goals are to attain high-quality, longer lives; achieve health equity and eliminate disparities; and create social and physical environments that promote good health and quality of life, healthy development, and healthy behavior across all life stages. Two objectives in the Injury and Violence Prevention section relate to poison prevention. Objective IVP-9 is to reduce poisoning deaths, and Objective IVP-10 is to reduce nonfatal poisonings.28 Community-based public education programs at PCCs are designed to help meet these public health objectives.


Since the first PCC was established in 1953, a number of legislative efforts have improved poison prevention and awareness and reduced the number of unintentional poisonings in children. Public education programs at PCCs have been influenced by these federal measures.80

National Poison Prevention Week

In 1961, President Kennedy signed Public Law 87–319, designating the third full week of March as National Poison Prevention Week (PPW) to raise awareness of the dangers of unintentional poisonings. Each year, during PPW, PCCs and other organizations across the country create events and activities to promote poison prevention.

Child-Resistant Packaging Act

In 1970, the Poison Prevention Packaging Act was passed. This law requires that the Consumer Product Safety Commission mandate the use of child-resistant containers for toxic household xenobiotics. In 1974, oral prescription medications were included in this requirement. A review of mortality data in children younger than 5 years of age showed a significant decrease in deaths after enactment of the child-resistant packaging legislation.69,80,86

Taste-Aversive Xenobiotics and Poison Prevention

Nontoxic taste-aversive xenobiotics are frequently ...

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