As we launch the Medical Library's exhibition "Killer or Cure? Poison through the Centuries" on March 23rd, we'd like to remind you that while poison has often captured the public imagination through the ages, today it can cause real harm, and even death.
Unfortunately, as of 2021, poison is the leading cause of injury death in the United States, and three-quarters of poison deaths are unintentional. Nearly half (41%) of cases occur in children under age 5. Nearly all (93%) poison cases these days occur at home, and most implicated poisons are regular household items – such as common drugs (analgesics and antidepressants), cleaning substances, and cosmetics – that become fatally toxic when not used as intended1.
In Connecticut during 2018-2021*, most accidental poisoning deaths occurred due to exposure to drugs**. This data and the figure below are produced from data on underlying causes of death extracted from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) WONDER Database2.
This figure on accidental poisoning deaths in Connecticut was created by data librarian for the health sciences, Kaitlin Throgmorton, using Python 3, pandas, matplotlib, seaborn, and Jupyter Notebook – view the code.
*CDC Wonder Underlying Cause of Death Files do not include data on infants. These files may not include all data, as data are suppressed when the data meet the criteria for confidentiality constraints.
**Drugs combines several categories, including: other and unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological substances; narcotics and psychodysleptics [hallucinogens], not elsewhere classified; antiepileptic, sedative-hypnotic, antiparkinsonism and psychotropic drugs, not elsewhere classified.
In addition to the launch of the poison exhibition this week, this week is also National Poison Prevention Week. You can help prevent unintentional poisoning with a few simple tips3:
Keep cleaning supplies, medicines, and other household items well out of reach of children.
Make sure you know what medicines and supplies you have, and that they're correctly labeled.
Call the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222 (or visit www.poisonhelp.org) if you need assistance.
America’s Poison Centers. National Poison Data System (NPDS) Interactive Dashboard. https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/aapcc/viz/APC_2021-NPDS-Public-Dashboard_PUBLISHED_2023-01-16/AnnualSummary. Accessed at https://poisoncenters.org/national-poison-data-system on Mar 16, 2023.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Mortality 2018-2021 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2021. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2018-2021, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed at http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10-expanded.html on Mar 16, 2023.
America’s Poison Centers. National Poison Prevention Week 2023. https://poisoncenters.org/nppw-2023. Accessed on Mar 20, 2023.