Press Release

American Association of Poison Control Centers Releases 33rd Annual Report of the National Poison Data System

December 22, 2016 | Download PDF

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The recently published 33rd Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS) reveals that in 2015, someone called a poison center about a human exposure every 14.5 seconds. America’s poison centers managed 2.8 million encounters, over two million of which were human exposure cases.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) maintains the National Poison Data System, the data repository for the nation’s 55 poison centers. NPDS is the only comprehensive, near real-time poisoning surveillance database in the United States and contains information on more than 60 million poison exposures mapped to a products database of over 427,000 specific products. “The situational awareness that NPDS provides is undoubtedly beneficial to public health surveillance,” said James Mowry, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT, lead author of the report. “From managing exposures during the Gulf oil spill in 2010, to more recently, tracing an alarming outbreak of synthetic cannabinoids from March through June of 2015, NPDS surveillance and poison center engagement continue to play a critical role in America’s public health system and demonstrate the value of poison center expertise in medical toxicology information and treatment advice.”

Approximately half of all human exposure cases managed by poison centers in 2015 involved children younger than six years, but as in previous years, adolescents and adults exhibited a greater number of severe medical outcomes. While overall incoming call volume to poison centers minimally decreased, cases with more serious clinical outcomes (moderate, major, or death) have increased by 4.34 percent per year since 2000. “In addition to an increase in more clinically serious exposures, health care facility cases managed by poison centers have also continued to consistently increase since 2000, which speaks to the increasing clinical complexity of the types of cases that the experts at poison centers help to manage,” said William Banner, MD, PhD, FACMT, FAACT, Medical Director of the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information, and current AAPCC President. “Health care providers such as emergency department clinicians, first responders, pharmacists, and others are increasingly relying on the experts at poison centers for immediate, evidence-based treatment advice about exposures to dangerous substances,” said Banner.

In 2015, around 57 percent of all exposure cases involved pharmaceuticals. The most common scenarios for unintentional pharmaceutical exposures included inadvertent double-dosing (30.1 percent), wrong medication taken or given (16.9 percent), other incorrect dose (14.6 percent), doses given/taken too close together (11.3 percent), and inadvertent exposure to someone else’s medication (8.48 percent). Other exposures were to household products, plants, mushrooms, pesticides, animal bites and stings, carbon monoxide, and many other types of non-pharmaceutical substances. Ingestion was the route of exposure in almost 84 percent of the cases in 2015. However, people were also exposed to potentially dangerous substances through the lungs, skin, eyes, and other routes. Similar to previous years, the majority of human exposures managed by poison centers in 2015 – approximately 78 percent – were unintentional. Intentional exposures accounted for approximately 17 percent of total cases, with suicidal intent suspected in almost 12 percent of those cases, intentional misuse in three percent, and intentional abuse in two percent.

Also similar to previous years, in 2015 most calls to poison centers originated from a residence, and the majority of exposures were treated at the site of exposure. “Approximately 67 percent of the 2.2 million exposure cases reported to poison centers in 2015 were treated at the exposure site, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in medical expenses,” said Stephen T. Kaminski, JD, AAPCC CEO and Executive Director. “The poison control system is extremely cost-efficient. It takes just $0.43 a year per U.S. resident to fund the nation’s entire poison control system—55 centers staffed 24/7 by experts tirelessly providing free services.”

“Poisoning continues to be the number one cause of injury-related death in the country. Poison centers are equipped, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to manage an array of calls, from poison-related information to treatment advice for more serious exposures. Anyone can experience a poison emergency; however, the public can easily prepare for these types of emergencies by programming the Poison Help phone number, 1-800-222-1222, into their mobile telephone,” said Kaminski.

Other findings in the report include:

  • The substance classes most frequently involved in human exposures were analgesics (11 percent), household cleaning substances (7.6 percent), cosmetics/personal care products (7.4 percent), sedatives/hypnotics/antipsychotics (5.8 percent), and antidepressants (4.6 percent).
  • Unintentional exposures outnumbered intentional exposures in all age groups except in the age category of 13-19 years.
  • Schools were the site of over 28,000 exposures. However, only about 10,000 calls to poison centers were made directly from schools.

The 33rd annual report issued by the American Association of Poison Control Centers was published in the December issue of Clinical Toxicology and is available at

AAPCC supports the nation’s 55 poison center members in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning. Members staff the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222 that provides free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers. In addition, AAPCC maintains the only poison information and surveillance database in the United States, providing real-time monitoring of unusual poisoning patterns, chemical exposures and other emerging public health hazards. AAPCC partners with federal agencies such as HRSA, CDC, FDA and EPA, as well as private industry. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency and program the Poison Help phone number into your mobile telephone today – 1 (800) 222-1222.

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For More Information

  • Edward V. Walrod

    • Associate Manager for Media and Public Relations
    • Email: media at aapcc dot org
    • 703-894-1863

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