Poison Statistics

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 2017. View the full 2017 report.

Calls to the Poison Control Center

The Poison Control Center receives thousands of calls each year from residents in Eastern Pennsylvania, the greater Philadelphia area and Delaware.

In 2017, the Poison Control Center received more than 125,000 calls about poison concerns from the public. The charts below detail the breakdown of these calls.

Poison Control Center Call Volume by Call Type

Total: 125,105

 
Patient Follow-up (66,961 cases)
 
Human Exposures (51,063 cases)
 
Information (6,217 cases)
 
Animal Exposures (864 cases)

 

The number of calls, by call type, received by the Poison Control Center in 2017.

 

Poison exposure statistics

The Poison Control Center works to reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with poison exposures. In order to achieve this goal and effectively educate the public on poisoning prevention and awareness, it is critical for our toxicology experts to identify new toxic threats and track poisoning epidemics.

We collect this data as part of a national, real-time surveillance system. Tracking this information helps us understand the common causes of poison exposures in both children and adults, and why these exposures happen, so that we can focus our efforts on prevention.

Reasons for exposure

Humans are exposed to poison for a variety of reasons. While some exposures are intentional, the majority of poisonings are unintentional, and can be caused by a variety of substances.

Human Poison Exposures by Reason

Total: 52,071

 
Unintentional (43,221)
 
Intentional (7,071)
 
Adverse Reaction (1,114)
 
Unknown (344)
 
Other (321)

 

 

Reasons for human poison exposures in 2017, calculated by number and type of calls that came in to the Poison Control Center.

Many of the unintentional exposures involve children under 6 years of age. Young kids like to explore their environment and imitate adult behaviors, which is why it’s important to keep medications and chemicals locked up tight, out of sight and out of reach of kids.

Human Exposures by Age Group

Total exposures: 50,679

 
≤ 5 Years: 25,037
 
20 to 59 Years: 12,261
 
60+ Years: 4,143
 
6 to 12 Years: 3,985
 
13 to 19 Years: 2,649
 
Unknown Age: 2,604

 

 
 

 

Top substances involved in poisoning exposures

Each year, the Poison Control Center documents the substances involved in poisoning exposures and collects this data. Knowing what substances are causing the most poisonings in both children and adults helps us identify new threats, improve our public education, and tailor the poison-specific information we provide to healthcare professionals and public health agencies.

The following tables compare the most common substances involved in poison exposures in kids versus adults based on calls to the Poison Control Center in 2017.

Top 5 Substances in Kids ≤ 5 years of Age
Cleaning substances (household) 2,727
Analgesics 2,362
Foreign bodies/toys/miscellaneous 1,852
Topical preparations 1,252
Antihistamines 1,123

 

Top 5 Substances in Adults ≥ 20 years of Age
Analgesics 2,475
Sedative/hypnotics/antipsychotics 2,175
Antidepressants 1,818
Cleaning substances (household) 1,623
Cardiovascular drugs 1,470

 

Fatalities Summary

Thankfully, many of the poison exposures that we help manage at our Poison Control Center to do not result in serious medical outcomes. Of the 51,063 human exposure calls reported to the Poison Control Center in 2017, 45 ended in fatality.

Poison Control Center Fatalities 2013-2017

The number of fatal cases reported to the Poison Control Center between 2013-2017.

 
Fatalities

 

 
 
Causes of Poisoning Deaths: All Ages
Substance
No. of cases
Benzodiazepines/Opioids
20
CNS/Psychiatric Medications (Excluding Opioids and Benzodiazepines)
18
Cardiovascular Medications
14
Other
11
Acetaminophen/Cough/Cold/ Allergy/OTC
9
Alcohol/Street Drugs
7
Uknown Drugs
7

 

 

Causes of Pediatric Deaths
Toxicological Cause of Death
No. of cases
Smoke/Carbon Monoxide
2
Other/Unknown Narcostics/Street Drugs
2
Antiarrhythmics
1
Dextromethorphan Preparations
1
Diphenhydramine
1
Non-narcotic antitussives (Exclusing Diphenhydramine)
1
Miscellaneous Unknown Drugs
1

Previous statistics and trends

Download previous annual reports to find poison statistics and trends from past years based on data collected by the Poison Control Center.


Next Steps
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What to Expect When You Call

When you call the Poison Control Center, we will ask you a series of questions. Here's what we'll need to know so we can help.

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Poisoning Resources for Professionals

Find treatment tips for poisoning events, clinical pathways, information about toxicology assessments, and more.