The American association of Poison Control Centers publishes an annual summary of telephone calls received by participating poison control centers. Data in the report for 1991 were derived from 73 poison control centers which served a population of 200.7 million people. These centers received a total of 1,837,939 calls on human exposure to poisons.
Pesticide exposure calls were categorized as fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, or rodenticides. Exposure to fungicides accounted for 1,447 calls, herbicides for 6,207, insecticides for 54,993 and rodenticides for 15,530. Combined, these represented only 3.8% of the calls received in 1991. Pesticides ranked seventh (behind cleansers, analgesics, cosmetics, plants, cough and cold medication, and bites and envenomations) as the substance most frequently involved in human exposure.
Treatment in health care facilities ranged from 25% of the insecticide cases to 41% of the rodenticide cases. The outcomes of 33 (2%) of the fungicide cases, 161 (2%) of the herbicides, 1,256 (2%) of the insecticides and 85 ( 1%) of the rodenticides were classified as either moderate or major in severity.
Twenty-two deaths from pesticides were reported (herbicides = 4, insecticides = 16 and rodenticides = 2). Paraquat accounted for all four herbicide deaths. One chlorinated hydrocarbon, fourteen organophosphates, and one "other" chemical class accounted for the insecticide deaths. An anticoagulant and an "other" chemical class accounted for the rodenticides.
Data on the circumstances of exposure were incomplete in some categories. Only two of the herbicide deaths, one insecticide death and one rodenticide death were reported to be accidental exposures. The majority of the deaths were reported to be intentional ingestions. Source: T. L. Litovitz, et al., 1991. Annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers National Data Collection System. Reprinted from "Pesticide Coordinator Report," University of the District of Columbia Cooperative Extension Service. Vol. 16, No. 5.
This article originally appeared in the June 9, 1993 issue, p. 87.