Ottawa, ON, Canada, Mar 20, 2023 - Each year in Canada, over 1,500 people lose their lives and nearly 8,000 are hospitalized due to unintentional poisoning from medications, cleaners, cannabis products, and many other household items. This National Poison Prevention Week, we encourage Canadians to take careful steps to keep their loved ones safe by learning how to store potential poisons safely to prevent unintentional poisoning, as well as what to do in case a poisoning occurs.
Unfortunately, while there are currently nine different phone numbers used to access the five poison centres in Canada, many Canadians don’t know the phone number for their local poison centre or even that the service is available. For this reason, Health Canada has launched a new toll-free number, 1-844 POISON-X, or 1-844-764-7669, in collaboration with four Canadian poison centres, to make it easier for people in Canada to access critical medical advice for poisonings. We encourage everyone to save this number in their phones, and to include it in their action plans in the event of a poisoning.
This new easy-to-remember toll-free number will help save lives while also adding a layer of resilience to our health care system by reducing unnecessary visits to hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices. By calling this number, Canadians will now be re-routed to their local poison centre regardless of where they are calling from in the country. The current provincial numbers remain in service and Canadians can continue using them.
The launch of this toll-free number is made possible through Health Canada’s investment in the Canadian Surveillance System for Poison Information (CSSPI), which helps aggregate, analyze, and interpret pan-Canadian poison centre information in near real time to inform poison prevention and harm reduction activities.
"Through this new toll-free number, it will be easier to reach a poison centre when it is most needed and help prevent severe illnesses and death. As a result, this will also add a layer of resilience to the health care system by reducing unnecessary visits to emergency rooms, clinics, and the doctor’s office."
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
"Accidental poisonings can happen to anyone at anytime – including from over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs, illicit substances, alcohol and cannabis. This new toll-free number will help to save lives, while also helping more Canadians access quality, timely, and evidence-based poison prevention education and related health care expertise."
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
"A single toll-free number to access the essential services of poison centres across Canada has been a long time coming and has been the vision of the Canadian Association of Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology for over 20 years. Health Canada has embraced our vision and has made this possible for all Canadians with funding and hundreds of hours of work. We are grateful and excited to see its institution."
Dr. Margaret Thompson
Medical Director, Ontario and Manitoba Poison Centre
President, Canadian Association for Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology
"In the Evidence Summary on the Prevention of Poisoning in Canada, published in 2020 and co-authored by Parachute and the Injury Prevention Centre at University of Alberta, one of our key recommendations was for a national toll-free number to make it simpler and easier to reach out for help in the case of suspected poisonings. We’re thrilled to see 1-844 POISON-X launched and promoted for use across Canada and congratulate the governments involved in achieving this important milestone."
President and CEO, Parachute
Poison centres are the 24/7 access point for medical professionals and the public to access medical treatment advice for exposures to drugs and chemicals.
Poison centres manage 63% or almost two-thirds of cases remotely without the requirement to enter a health care facility.
In 2020, Canada’s poison centres managed 215,589 cases; more than one-third involved a child aged 5 or under.
In 2020, the most common substances involved in cases managed by poison centres were medications for pain relief (analgesics) and household cleaning products, such as bleach.
A 2020 Ipsos online survey of Canadian parents found that only 40% were aware of poison centre services or how to contact their respective poison centre.
The Government of Canada is working with all provinces and territories for the implementation of 1-844 POISON-X. Québec will continue using its current provincial toll-free number. If a caller indicates that they are accessing the national toll-free service from Quebec, they will be instructed to contact the Centre antipoison du Québec (1-800-463-5060).
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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