In December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made this startling announcement: poisoning is now the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States, surpassing even automobile accidents.
The primary reason, as CDC notes, is the rise of opioid pain-killers and their increasing abuse: “During the past three decades, the number of drug poisoning deaths increased sixfold from about 6,100 in 1980 to 36,500 in 2008.”
I mention this because this week (March 18-24) is National Poison Prevention Week, which began 50 years ago in 1962. (That particular year also saw the publication of Rachel Carson’s crusading novel, Silent Spring, which helped galvanize public attention concerning the risks associated with what she recognized as too casual use of industrial and agricultural chemicals.)
We should obviously add to that warning list the too casual use (and abuse) of prescription drugs. In its press release, which I’ve linked to above, the Poison Prevention Week Council notes that emerging hazards “have again ignited the need for increased awareness. In just the past year, America’s 57 poison control centers fielded 4 million calls, treating 2.4 million human poison exposures and handling 1.6 million information calls.”
As readers of this blog know, increased awareness of our chemical world is one of my ongoing crusades. And while I’m not given to public service announcements, I do like to take every opportunity to sound that trumpet. The rise in poison deaths and injuries should remind us that however well informed we may consider ourselves – there is much room to do much better.
For instance – yes, another a pet crusade of mine – we could reduce carbon monoxide deaths if we would just take more seriously the dangers posed by that odorless, colorless and extremely poisonous gas. On the very first day of poison prevention week, I read this story from California about five people hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning due to a heater leak. As the story noted, there were no working carbon monoxide detectors in the house. As the CDC also notes, this gas kills hundreds of people every year and sends an average of 15,000 annually to the hospital in the U.S. alone.
But enough about me and my crusades. There’s a slew of good information this week about protecting yourself – and your pets – from every day toxic substances.
Here, for instance, is some good advice on protecting children from Health News Digest.
Here’s some ways to protect your pet, courtesy of Pet MD.
There’s a smart piece here from Consumer Reports on when to lock away household chemicals.
And an announcement here from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which summarizes some of the major issues. (Both Canada and Mexico are also participating in poison prevention week.)
Pay attention to this, okay? Oh, and go get that carbon monoxide detector. You don’t want to end up in this blog, do you?