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New National Emergency Hotline Assessed; CPSC Joins in Launching Poison Prevention Week to Stop 30 Deaths Each Year

Release Date: March 13, 2002

During a news conference to launch National Poison Prevention Week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American Association of Poison Control Centers, and the Poison Prevention Week Council reported on the performance of the new national toll-free telephone number for poison control centers. The new number, (800) 222-1222, was launched on January 30, 2002. For the first time, this new number provides everyone in the U.S. with free access - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - to their regional poison center. In just the first full month of operation, the toll-free number received 44,000 calls about potential poisonings.

"This number is proving to be a life-saver," said CPSC Acting Chairman Thomas Moore. "The CPSC wholeheartedly supports this innovation and hopes that families and caregivers across the nation keep this number near their phones for quick action when needed."

The goal of National Poison Prevention Week, this year held March 17-23, is to help reduce the annual toll of about 30 deaths to children under 5 years old. The nation's poison control centers receive more than one million calls each year about unintentional poisonings of children under 5 years of age from medicines and household chemicals.

Experts emphasize three ways to reduce deaths and injuries from poisonings: (1) Keep medicines and household chemicals locked up, out of reach, and out of sight of young children at all times; (2) Use child-resistant packaging because it saves lives; and (3) Call (800) 222-1222 to get immediate treatment advice for poison emergencies.

The CPSC requires child-resistant packaging for 30 categories of medicines and household chemicals.

"Child resistant-packaging saves lives," said Moore. "For aspirin and oral prescription medicine, special packaging has saved the lives of more than 900 children since the early 1970s."

National Poison Prevention Week is organized each year by the Poison Prevention Week Council, a coalition of national organizations, including the CPSC, working to prevent poisonings. According to Peter Mayberry, Chairman of the Poison Prevention Week Council, "National Poison Prevention Week is a time to emphasize the responsibility that parents, grandparents, and other caregivers have in preventing these tragedies. Adults everywhere need to remember that it can only take an instant for a poisoning to occur when children are able to reach household chemicals and medicines."

Child-resistant packaging is not child-proof. If a young child swallows a medicine or chemical, parents must call the poison control center immediately. Dr. Alan Woolf, President of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, said, "Our new national toll-free number (800-222-1222) makes life-saving poison center assistance accessible to everyone in the U.S. We are confident we can save lives if people call the poison center immediately."

The "Poison Control Center Enhancement and Awareness Act" provides a stable source of federal funds for poison centers and makes them more accessible to the nation.

Here are the basic poison prevention tips that every person should check during National Poison Prevention Week:

1.  Keep all chemicals and medicines locked up and out of sight.

2.  Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use or choosing child-resistant blister cards, which do not need to be re-secured.

3.  Call (800) 222-1222 immediately in case of poisoning. Keep on hand a bottle of ipecac syrup but use it only if the poison center instructs you to induce vomiting.

4.  When products are in use, never let young children out of your sight, even if you must take them along when answering the phone or doorbell.

5.  Keep items in original containers.

6.  Leave the original labels on all products, and read the label before using.

7.  Do not put decorative lamps and candles that contain lamp oil where children can reach them. Lamp oil can be very toxic if ingested by young children.

8.  Always leave the light on when giving or taking medicine. Check the dosage every time.

9.  Avoid taking medicine in front of children. Refer to medicine as "medicine," not "candy."

10.  Clean out the medicine cabinet periodically and safely dispose of unneeded and outdated medicines.

To get a free packet of poison prevention publications, write to "Poison Prevention Packet," CPSC, Washington, DC 20207, or visit

movie iconConsumers can also view a
video clip about Poison Prevention Week (transcript) . This is in "streaming video" format.

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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