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Press Releases

New York City Seal
Press Release
New York City Department of Health
Office of Public Affairs
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Andrew Tucker
Tuesday, March 19, 2002
(212) 295-5335/5336


In commemoration of National Poison Prevention Week (March 17-23), New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, urged New Yorkers to safeguard their homes against poisoning risks, noting that children and elderly persons are at highest risk for unintentional poisonings. Dr. Frieden also reminded New Yorkers that the Health Department's Poison Control Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to respond to emergencies as well as give poisoning prevention tips. The New York City Poison Control Center can be reached by calling a new national number established January 2002 to create immediate access to the nation's 65 local poison centers through one national number, 1-800-222-1222. New Yorkers can still reach the Poison Control Center through the original phone numbers: (212) POISONS (764-7667), (212) VENENOS (836-3667) for Spanish speakers, and (212) 689-9014 for TDD users.

Dr. Frieden said, "Children are particularly vulnerable to poisonings in the home. Parents should be watchful when household chemicals or medications are being used, as incidents can occur when adults leave these potentially harmful products unattended while in use, or easily accessible. Parents and caregivers should take a few minutes this week to poison-proof their homes by ensuring that potentially harmful products in the kitchen, bathroom, garage, or other storage areas are secured in child-resistant containers, locked up, or otherwise kept out of the reach of children."

Dr. Frieden continued, "Ingestion of medications is one of the most common forms of childhood poisoning, so it is especially important for parents and caregivers to check that all medications – whether prescription or over-the-counter – are stored in child-resistant containers. Even those who do not have children living with them should make their homes safer by storing medications, household cleaners, and other potential poisons far from the reach of visiting children."

A comprehensive list of potentially poisonous plants and products, checklists for home safety, and more information about the services offered by the NYC Poison Control Center can be found on the Health Department's Web site,

Robert Hoffman, M.D., Director of the New York City Poison Control Center, said, "Adults are also at risk for poisoning, especially older individuals who may have difficulty reading product and medication labels.

Poison Prevention Week is a good opportunity for all New Yorkers to inspect household medications, throw out any expired products, and make sure that prescription drugs are stored in their original containers. In addition, remember to check with your doctor, pharmacist, or the Poison Control Center before taking more than one medication."

Dr. Hoffman added, "If you suspect that an individual has ingested, inhaled, or otherwise come into contact with a poison, remain calm and immediately contact a medical professional or the Poison Control Center. Trained poison information specialists are available 24 hours a day to provide emergency advice for callers. Our specialists can also assist emergency medical personnel or clinicians in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of poisoning incidents."

All parents and caregivers should have both Syrup of Ipecac and Activated Charcoal available. Syrup of Ipecac is a medicine that can induce vomiting, and is commonly found in local pharmacies and baby stores. While vomiting induced by this substance may help remove poisons from the stomach, Syrup of Ipecac should never be administered without first consulting a physician or the Poison Control Center. In instances where a corrosive agent may have been ingested, induced vomiting may cause further burning and injury as it passes back up through the esophagus. Activated charcoal is a very fine, special powder form of charcoal. It adsorbs (binds) to most poisons in the stomach so the poisons don't reach the blood stream where they can do harm, and then passes through the body naturally.

Warning signs of a possible poisoning may include an open nearby container, strange odor on the breath, burns around the mouth, profuse sweating, upset stomach or nausea, convulsions, and altered mental status – (e.g., drowsiness, dizziness, or unconsciousness). Dr. Hoffman added, "With some poisonous substances, however, symptoms may take hours to develop. Do not take chances if you suspect that someone has been poisoned – seek medical attention and/or call the Poison Control Center immediately."

The Poison Control Center is the only facility providing emergency toxicology services to emergency departments, doctors, and households in New York City. It also serves as a training facility for physicians, offering a two-year toxicology fellowship program with Bellevue Hospital and providing extensive professional and public education programs. In addition, community-focused education programs, as well as educational materials, are also available by contacting the Poison Control Center. A voluntary medical support network of physician consultants provides expertise in associated fields of toxicology, including herpetology (reptiles), mycology (fungus), botany (plants), and environmental and occupational medicine.

In 2001, the Poison Control Center received approximately 60,000 calls from New York City residents in all 5 boroughs, many of which involved questions about poisonings in the home.