The Safety Net

Making Home and Workplace Safe From Unintentional Poisonings

Every year more than two million people call poison control centers to report an exposure to a poison. This may mean something taken internally or something that is inhaled or something that affects the skin. Nearly 90% of these exposures happen in the home and involve common household items such as cleaning products, medicines, vitamins, cosmetics, detergents and plants. Persons with developmental disabilities may be at increased risk for poisoning. Some reasons for this may include poor reading skills; inability to recognize edible from non-edible products; pica behavior which means that a person deliberately eats or attempts to eat non-edibles; and a lack of awareness of the danger of ingesting or handling certain substances.

National Toll-Free Number
If the person collapses, has difficulty breathing, or is not breathing call 911. Posting this number next to the phone is the first step to assure a swift response at the time of an incident. Call 1-800-222-1222. This new toll-free national number will connect you to the most immediate information when you suspect or know a poisoning or overdose incident has occurred.

Print the following checklist:

Poison Checklist

  1. Is the toll-free poison control phone number (1-800-222-1222) visible from the main telephone location?
  2. Are syrup of ipecac and activated charcoal located in a secure place to be used as directed by emergency personnel?
  3. Are all food products stored in an area that is completely separate from non-food items?
  4. Is all medication, including vitamins and over the counter products such as iron tablets or aspirin, kept in a locked location?
  5. Are there training programs in place to teach people the safe use of medications, cleaning products or other potentially dangerous items?
  6. Are all employees and volunteers trained in emergency response to a potential poisoning and trained in safe practices for storage of dangerous poisons?
  7. Does anyone in the environment have a diagnosis of pica behavior? Are special plans in place and known by all?
  8. Do you have carbon monoxide detectors installed?
  9. Do you remove mushrooms from the lawn as soon as they appear?
  10. Is the environment checked frequently for peeling paint (especially in older buildings) and are paint chips removed safely?

Practicing safety before an incident occurs is the best thing you can do! Involve everyone in planning and developing safe practices. For more information read the other articles on this month’s web site and visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers web site at:


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