(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) said they were very pleased that their bill to continue federal support for the nation’s poison-control centers has been signed into law.  The President signed the Poison Center Support, Enhancement, and Awareness Act of 2008, S. 2932, on Wednesday, reauthorizing the poison center national toll-free number, national media campaign, and state grant program.

“Poison centers are a lifeline for anxious parents in an emergency,” Senator Murray said.  “I’m very glad that the President has signed this bill into law so we can ensure that millions of Americans will still be able to turn to this vital resource when they are in need.”

Said Burr:  “I am pleased that the President has signed this important bill into law.  North Carolinians will now continue to benefit from the expert assistance provided by emergency resources like the Carolinas Poison Center, and all Americans can continue to rely on poison centers when they are in need.”

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that in any given year there will be between 3 million and 5 million poison exposures.  Sixty percent of these exposures will involve children under the age of 6 who are exposed to toxins in their home.  Poisoning is the second-most common form of unintentional death in the United States, and it accounts for 285,000 hospitalizations.

The poison center national toll-free number, national media campaign, and state grant program that will be reauthorized to provide the federal assistance for the nation’s network of poison control centers to support poison prevention.  There are currently 61 poison-control centers (PCCs) nationwide.  Each PCC is a medical support facility staffed by toxicologists, nurses, and other professionals operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide a free, but critical medical service.  In 2007, more than 4 million calls were managed by these 61 PCCs.

PCCs have also proven to be an extraordinarily wise federal investment.  A 2004 National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine two-year study of the nation’s poison-control centers states that for every $1 invested in poison-control centers, $7 in U.S. health care costs are saved. 

Senator Murray has long supported poison-control efforts in Washington state and across the nation.  On October 11th, 2007 Murray was presented with the William O. Robertson, MD Award  by Washington Poison Center because “she has fought for financial and technical support for poison centers at the national level and continues to lobby not only to maintain this support but increase it.”

The toll-free nationwide poison-control hotline number is 1-800-222-1222.