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Pesticide Exposures


Tracking Pesticide Exposures

The pesticide exposure data used on the Tracking Network come from poison control centers in the United States. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) works with the nation's poison centers throughout the United States to monitor poisonings and their sources. These sources include chemicals found in household products, the workplace, at home and in the environment, as well as poisonings from foods, beverages, drugs and medicines, and animal and insect bites. The poison control centers offer a free, confidential 24-hour telephone line (1-800-222-1222) where people can get medical advice on poisonings. You can also access www.poisonhelp.org to get information about what to do if someone has come into contact with a poison.

National Poison Data System (NPDS)

AAPCC maintains the National Poison Data System (NPDS), the only near, real-time comprehensive poisoning exposure surveillance database in the United States. NPDS contains information about human poison exposures from phone calls taken by all the poison centers across the country. Data are uploaded to NPDS from the poison centers about every 19 minutes.

NPDS Data

Poison control center data regarding exposures to pesticides are classified as self-reported because the majority of calls are from people calling from their own or another person's residence. When exposures are very serious and require hospitalization or a visit to the emergency department, they may be reported by a healthcare provider or medical examiner.

Data Limitations

Pesticide poisonings are likely to be underreported because of difficulty with diagnosis, incomplete reporting to surveillance systems and symptoms not being recognized as a poisoning. Long-term low-dose exposures, which may be more typical of pesticides exposures, are often not included in poisoning data. This contributes to underreporting as well.

State-specific data and U.S. census region data, which are being used to calculate rates, vary by state and by region. Utilization of poison centers per unit population varies widely across the U.S., so it is very hard to make comparisons between states. For example, just because CA sees more pesticide exposure calls compared to GA per capita does not necessarily mean CA has more pesticide exposures; it could be due to the fact that poison centers are called more in CA in general. Another limitation is that poison center practices vary by poison center, so their coding of reported exposures may be different. This may be particularly evident in the coding of the data field 'reason for exposure.' In addition, because these exposures are self-reported both the type of pesticide and the degree of illness associated with the exposure may be misclassified since the designation by the poison control center for both is based on the description provided by the caller.

The Tracking Network displays poison control center data from the NPDS for poisonings by state for the following pesticide categories:

  • Disinfectants
  • Fumigants
  • Fungicides
  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Repellents
  • Rodenticides
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