A picture of Representative Eliot L. Engel
Eliot E.
Democrat NY 16

About Rep. Eliot
  • Poison Center Network Act

    by Representative Eliot L. Engel

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    ENGEL. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    I rise in strong support of H.R. 3527, the Poison Center Network Act.

    {time} 1300 Mr. Speaker, this important legislation, which passed the Energy and Commerce Committee by unanimous consent in December, reauthorizes the national toll-free phone number, media campaign, and grant program which have helped make poison centers an incredibly successful program.

    First passed in 2000, national poison center legislation was championed by our current Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Mr. Upton, and our former colleague, Ed Towns. Since then, the national poison center legislation has been reauthorized twice, and I am proud to say it remains a very bipartisan product.

    Chairman Terry, thank you for your leadership on this issue over the years and your hard work on this reauthorization. This is a good, bipartisan bill, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to work on it with you.

    Poison exposure is a leading cause of unintentional injuries in the United States, and it was the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in 2010. According to a recent Lewin Group report, poisonings accounted for over 2.1 million emergency room visits and 438,000 hospitalizations in the year 2009 alone. I think most of us with children remember either having a magnet on our refrigerator or a sticker on our phone providing the contact information for the poison center in our area.

    The experts that staff our Nation's network of 56 poison centers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In 2012, poison centers handled, on average, 9,200 cases per day for a total of almost 3.4 million cases over the course of the year. Over 90 percent of calls into poison centers were due to a poison exposure in someone's home, and approximately half of all cases involved children under the age of 6 who were exposed to toxins in their home.

    In my home State of New York, we have two poison centers that, between the two of them, field over 164,000 calls per year. The New York City poison center found that 88 percent of all exposures to a dangerous substance occurred within someone's own residence. Many of these calls were related to the accidental ingestion of various cleaning products or detergents, but in 2012, the New York City poison center also fielded over 2,000 calls regarding prescription painkillers.

    For the upstate New York poison center in 2012, 85 percent of calls were related to unintentional poisonings, 62 percent involved children under the age of 5, and, most importantly, 82 percent of cases could be managed over the phone and did not require a visit to a doctor or a hospital if hospitalization is necessary.

    In 2011, poison centers helped avoid an estimated 1.7 million unnecessary health care visits and have been shown to decrease the amount of time an individual spends in the hospital. While a visit to the emergency room can cost hundreds of dollars, and a hospitalization can cost thousands, a phone call to a poison center only costs around $30, which shows poison centers continue to be a smart public health investment.

    I think it is also important to note that poison centers are an incredibly valuable resource to health care providers. Poison centers provide access to board-certified medical toxicologists which can assist with the triage, diagnosis, and treatment of patients with known or suspected poisoning.

    Poison centers are a true partnership between Federal, State, and local governments, as well as in the private sector. In 2011, poison centers obtained only 13 percent of their funding from Federal grants, while 62 percent came from State and local government and 25 percent from private funders like hospitals and insurers. Adequate funding from all sources is important in order to continue to provide high-quality experts and services in the name of poison prevention for our constituents.

    Mr. Speaker, by all accounts, poison centers have been an incredible success and a program that we should all be proud to be a part of. In addition to my gratitude towards Mr. Terry, I would also again like to thank Chairman Upton for his leadership on this issue, as well as Ranking Member Waxman, Chairman Pitts, and Ranking Member Pallone for their assistance in bringing this bill, first, before the Energy and Commerce Committee and to the floor today.

    As the lead Democrat on this bipartisan legislation, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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