New Poison Centres report reveals pain-relief medications, cleaning products top causes of reported poison exposures
This page was last reviewed on October 4, 2022
TORONTO, Oct. 4, 2022 – The Canadian Association of Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicologists (CAPCCT), Health Canada and Parachute (Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention) have released the first Pan-Canadian Poison Centre Annual Report since 1987.
Poisoning, particularly unintentional poisoning, is a much larger public health issue in Canada than is generally recognized. Poisoning incidents cost the Canadian economy $2.6 billion in a single year, including $456 million in direct health-care system costs.
Canada’s five poison centres operate 24/7 year-round to provide medical advice on poison exposures, managing more than 60 per cent of cases at the site of exposure, allowing patients to safely stay at home and outside of healthcare facilities. The 2020 Pan-Canadian Poison Centre Annual Report includes the most current data from all five of Canada’s poison centres. The report provides an overview of the number and nature of cases managed by poison centres across Canada and highlights the role of these centres in poison prevention efforts.
Key findings from the 2020 annual report:
- In 2020, Canada’s poison centres managed 215,589 cases, including 186,739 confirmed or potential human exposure cases and 28,850 non-exposures or other cases.
- More than one-third of the exposure cases poison centres managed – 64,527 exposure cases – involved a child aged 5 or under.
- The majority (74.5 per cent) of exposure cases managed by poison centres were unintentional incidents.
- Poison centres managed 30,331 cases resulting from suspected substance- and toxin-related self-harm. In 71 per cent of these cases, the person exposed was female.
- In 2020, the most common substances involved in exposures cases managed by poison centres were medications for pain relief (analgesics) and household cleaning substances.
- Most poisoning exposure cases are managed at home without requiring medical attention at a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office. Poison centre staff provide guidance and reassurance to Canadians while preventing unnecessary strain on healthcare resources.
- When cases are managed at home – more than 60 per cent of cases – a benign outcome is assumed. Where possible, poison centre staff follow cases where the patient is in, en route to, or referred to a healthcare facility until the patient’s medical outcome is known.
- Poison centres are effective instigators of collaborative public health action to educate and protect the public, inform regulatory action and enhance professional knowledge. In 2020, poison centres provided data and expertise to Health Canada on priority health issues, which supported policy change and regulatory action, led to early warnings and alerting of safety signals, and resulted in three public advisories issued by Health Canada.
“Canada’s five poison centres are critical to the functioning of the healthcare system and resources for healthcare advice,” says Pamela Fuselli, President and CEO of Parachute. “Every household should have their local poison centre number saved in their mobile phone and reach out to consult with these experts if they suspect someone has been exposed to a poison.”
“Data highlighted in this report demonstrate that poisonings continue to be a major public health concern in Canada, especially in light of recent trends in both unintentional and self-harm poisonings and emerging causes of poisoning,” says Dr. Margaret Thompson, president of The Canadian Association of Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicologists (CAPCCT). “And while we support individuals directly, healthcare providers have come to rely on the toxicological expertise of poison centre staff to assist with management of poisoned patients who present to healthcare facilities across the country.”
“As poisoning remains a significant public health and safety issue in Canada, keeping everyone safe is our top priority, which is why we are collaborating with Canadian poison centres on the release of this annual report and the implementation of the Canadian Surveillance System for Poison Information program,” says the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health. ” We remain committed to providing people in Canada with the information they need to safeguard their health, and working with poison centres is fundamental to making this possible.”
Read the report in English, hosted on infopoison.ca.
Lire le rapport en français, disponible sur infopoison.ca
Moving forward, Pan-Canadian Poison Centre reports will be published annually.
For more information on Parachute and our work on poison prevention, visit parachute.ca.
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Contact and to request media interviews:
Kelley Teahen, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, Parachute
416 886-0950 (mobile)
Parachute is Canada’s national charity dedicated to reducing the devastating impact of preventable injuries. Injury is the No. 1 killer of Canadians aged 1 to 44 and the financial toll is staggering, with injury costing the Canadian economy $29.4 billion a year. Through education and advocacy, Parachute is working to save lives and create a Canada free of serious injuries. For more information, visit us at parachute.ca and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
About the Canadian Association for Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology
Established in 1982, the Canadian Association of Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology (formerly called the Canadian Association of Poison Control Centres) provides a centralized, volunteer forum for communication, information and idea exchange among Canada’s five poison centres. Today’s five centres, established in the 1980s and 1990s to respond to public inquiries about poison exposure, took over from local emergency-department-based poison response telephone lines. Read more about poison response history and activities at infopoison.ca