The Poison Control Center closely monitors the calls received each year, tracking the volume, reasons for exposure, top substances involved in poisonings and poison-associated fatalities. This data helps us identify poisoning trends and risks to the public, knowledge that informs community education, awareness and treatment efforts.
The following data is based on calls to the Poison Control Center from 2019. View the full 2019 report.
Calls to the Poison Control Center
In 2020, nurses and pharmacists at the Poison Control Center provided expert information, poisoning management guidance, and reassurance in more than 62,000 calls. This included 54,015 human exposure cases resulting from poisoning concerns.
In February 2020, the Poison Control Center activated our existing emergency preparedness plans and unique public health safety net infrastructure to create a Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline for our region and a Contact Tracing Center for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, our host institution.
Pandemic-related behavior changes also led to a 20% increase in calls related to exposures to our Poison Control Center about hand sanitizers and cleaning products. This was the topic of an April 2020 CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Total: 62,337 The number of calls, by call type, received by the Poison Control Center in 2020.
Poison Control Center Call Volume by Call Type
The number of calls, by call type, received by the Poison Control Center in 2020.
Poison exposure statistics
Home poisoning prevention education and advocacy remain important missions! Nearly half of all poison exposure cases reported to the Poison Control Center involve children younger than age 6 and nearly 60 percent involve children and teenagers.
Intentional self-poisoning reports among adolescents and adults are more likely to lead to major toxicity or fatality, emphasizing the importance of mental health services for depression and substance abuse disorders.
Top substances involved in poisoning exposures
Easy access to drugs and chemicals within our homes – in our medicine cabinets, under our sinks or in our garages — creates opportunities for poisoning, especially in young children. Most of the calls we receive regarding children younger than age 6 reflect exposure to common household items.
Poisonings among our adolescent and adult callers were more likely to lead to major toxicity. Many of the common exposures among these age groups emphasize the importance of access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment services. We are proud to provide free and judgment-free guidance to all callers.
Where people are exposed to poisons
More than 90 percent of poison exposures reported to the Poison Control Center occur within the home — reinforcing the value of creating a poison-safe home environment. This year, we experienced a unique significant decrease (940%) in exposures occurring in public areas. This is likely due to COVID=19 pandemic related-behavior changes.
In 2020, more than 8,500 poison exposure cases were received from healthcare professionals. These cases can be complicated, urgent and require significant resources from the center’s expert staff, including consultations with our physician toxicologists.
Managing Poison Exposures Reported Outside of Hospital
Poisoning remains the leading cause of death due to injury in our country. In 2020, 40 cases reported to CHOP’s Poison Control Center resulted in a fatality. Of note, this does not represent every poisoning death in our region. This represents fatality cases that either originated with a call to our Poison Control Center, or where a hospital reached out to us for treatment guidance. Hospitals should remember that CHOP’s Poison Control Center is available to help manage complex poisoning cases 24/7 through our Poison Help line. It is our mission at the Poison Control Center to reduce injury due to poisoning. Thankfully, many of the poison exposures that we help manage do not result in serious medical outcomes. Of the 54,015 human exposure calls reported to the Poison Control Center in 2020, 40 ended in fatality. The number of fatal cases reported to the Poison Control Center, by year, are presented in Figure 1.
- The majority of deaths were reported among adults aged 18-64 years (80 percent); adults aged 65-plus accounted for 15 percent of fatal cases.
- We had two reported pediatric deaths in children (aged 4 months to 15 years) in 2020; one attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning; the other to ethanol poisoning. Figure 2 demonstrates fatality reports by age group. (See back for more details on pediatric fatalities from 2020.)