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Most poisonings can be avoided
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National Poison Prevention week takes place during March 20-26, 2011. It may seem like this is "just another one of those public service announcements," but unintentional poisoning cases, according to the Center for Disease Control " second only to motor vehicle crashes as a leading cause of unintentional injury or death in the United States." And when people think of poison-related injuries or deaths, the first things that come to mind are dangerous chemicals like cleaning agents, solvents, insecticides, rodent control substances, and contaminated foods. Indeed, the aforementioned make up a significant percentage of unintentional injury or death cases, but prescription drugs are also a less obvious, yet serious part of the problem; in fact, more than 90 percent of these cases involve drugs.

Each year, close to three-quarter of a million people in the United States have to go to hospital emergency rooms to be treated for poisoning. Approximately 30,000 people die each year from unintentional poisoning and the number has been rising in recent times. The consequences of poisonous substances can include mild to severe physical discomfort, permanent injury or death. The ingestion of poisonous substances, or the intake of substances that are otherwise safe when taken according to instructions, can also lead to blindness, physical disfigurement, or brain damage, to name a few. And with the nearly 2.5 million reported incidents of poison exposure each year, it becomes clear that poison prevention should be a national priority. These poisonings cause human suffering, a loss in productivity and a drain on economic resources. The estimated annual cost for poisoning cases is close to $30 billion.

There are many ways to avoid poisoning events. The most important is awareness, which means that individuals can plan to keep the various poisoning threats under control. Keeping hazardous substances like cleaning agents locked up and away from kids is a good start. The less obvious, like safe-keeping prescription medications, topical pain relievers, over-the-counter medications, and even cosmetics, are also important.

Food safety is a subject that each person should know about as well, since there are so many ways people can get sick or die from food that is allowed to spoil prior to consumption or is not handled in a safe, sanitary manner. There are over 250 known diseases that can be transmitted through food and the causes include viruses, bacteria, parasites, poisonous mushrooms, improper preparation (such as undercooked meats), and pesticides. To prevent food poisoning, ensure all foods are packaged and stored properly at the appropriate temperatures, check expiration dates, be careful when handling raw meats by washing hands before and after handling and disinfecting surfaces they touch, and cook foods thoroughly at recommended temperatures. Leftovers should be consumed within four days.

National Poison Prevention Week aims to bring about awareness and increased safety through education and by advocating safe practices in the usage and storage of potentially hazardous substances. And for emergency situations, of course, people can call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance. At the same time, when dealing with possible poisoning situations, or for questions about a specific substance, people can call 1-(800)-222-1222, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for assistance.