Most people think of poisoning as a childhood issue. That is true for poisoning exposures, but not for nonfatal and fatal poisonings. The pie charts below show the distribution of poisoning exposures, nonfatal poisonings, and fatal poisonings by age group. The poisoning exposure data is provided by the American Association of Poison Control Centers and represents the calls received by poison control centers. The nonfatal data represents emergency department visits, while the fatality data is compiled from death certificates.

Nonfatal exposures occur predominantly among young children, largely from ingesting personal care products like cosmetics or household cleaning products. Fatal and nonfatal poisonings overwhelmingly occur among adults, which is largely attributed to the opioid epidemic in the United States. While 44% of poisoning exposures involve children 4 or younger, more than 90% of nonfatal poisonings and 99% of fatalities are adults older than 19.

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Nonfatal poisonings decreased 2.9% in 2018 and now account for more than 1.7 million emergency department visits a year. Fatal poisonings and poisoning death rates decreased in 2018. This is the first decrease since the current recordkeeping system was established in 1999. This decrease is largely attributed to reductions in opioid overdose deaths (see the drug overdose page for more details).

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Source: Fatal and nonfatal data – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WONDER
Poisoning exposures –  Gummin, D.D.,  Mowry, J.B.,  Spyker, D.A., Brooks, D.E.,  Beuhler, MC., Rivers, L.F., Hashem, H.A., & Ryan, M.L. (2019) 2018 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 36th Annual Report, Clinical Toxicology

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