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This week, the week of the 19th to the 25th, is National Poison Prevention Week (NPPW). Annually, this falls on the third week of March and serves to promote awareness about poison safety and preventing poisonings.
To understand poison safety, it’s important to first know exactly what constitutes a “poison.” A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. This may be anything from undercooked chicken to carbon monoxide, from laundry detergent pods to alcohol, and the resultant effects of poisoning can range from nausea to unconsciousness. No matter what, poisons are no joke, which is why NPPW exists.
The week is officially sponsored by the National Poisoning Prevention Council, which is made up of representatives from over fifteen public, government, and nonprofit institutions. The mission of the Council includes the raising of awareness and the implementing of education programs in order to minimize unintentional poisoning.
During the National Poison Prevention Week of 2017, these themes will be observed each day (source: American Association of Poison Control Centers):
Monday, March 20 – Children Act Fast … So Do Poisons
Tuesday, March 21 – Poison Centers: Saving You Time and Money
Wednesday, March 22 – Poisonings Span a Lifetime
Thursday, March 23 – Home Safe Home
Friday, March 24 – Medicine Safety
In America, there unfortunately are many cases of poisonings, putting anyone at risk – regardless of age, race, gender, or economic status. Even pets are susceptible to poisonings. Over 35,000 deaths result from poisonings each year. Children are the most likely to be poisoned; according to the Health Resources & Services Administration, those younger than six make up for half of all poison exposures. Despite these troubling statistics, initiatives like National Poison Prevention Week exist to minimize poison incidents.
The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (or NJPIES for short), based locally at Newark’s University Hospital, is New Jersey’s only poison center. The center works tirelessly to educate and enlighten people about the potential dangers of various substances. It is comforting to know that for NJIT students, assistance for any poison-related incidents is not very far. Diane P. Calello, MD, Executive and Medical Director of NJPIES says, “We want our residents to have peace of mind in knowing that we are here to help with the most routine poison exposures as well as the unusual.”
In the case of poisoning, The Poison Center is an advantageous choice over the emergency room because of the reduced wait time and cost, as most cases are treated at the site of exposure. Beneficial both for medical staff and patients, poison centers should be a first line of defense for any poison-related incidents – unless someone is unconscious, not breathing, seizing/convulsing, bleeding profusely, difficult to arouse/wake up, etc., in which case 911 should be called.
NJPIES stays connected to the public through the use of social media (Twitter and Facebook). Throughout National Poison Prevention Week, it will be posting daily. To follow content relevant to this week, use/search for hashtags #NPPW17 and #PreventPoison. Furthermore, NJPIES has a toll-free 24/7 hotline that you can call to ask any questions or report any exposures. The number is 1-800-222-1222. For more information about NPPW, visit http://www.aapcc.org/prevention/nppw/