Poisoning is a major and increasing health problem in the Western world. In 1972 the 310 poison control centres in Canada reported 53 531 enquiries about poisoning, 40% in adults. In 1964 the numbers of hospital admissions and deaths due to poisoning in this country were 2446 and 38, respectively, but in 1972 the figures were 6263 and 319, respectively. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths were among adults. Of 100 Canadian poison control centres two thirds were staffed by "any nurse in the emergency room", most of whom had received no training to answer the phone enquiries. However, two thirds agreed a training program is needed. Only 6.7% of 223 parents surveyed stated they would call a poison control centre if their child had accidentally swallowed a large amount of a poisonous substance. Regionalization of centres, a training program for personnel answering telephone enquiries, the need for crisis intervention as part of poison control programs, and public education about poisoning and poison control centres are the new challenges facing those providing health services.
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