Transportation-Related Hazardous Materials Incidents and the Role of Poison Control Centers

Mark E Sutter, Stephanie L. Hon, Arthur S. Chang, Michael D. Schwartz, D. Adam Algren, Joshua G. Schier, James Lando, Lauren S. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Department of Transportation (DOT) mandates reporting of all serious hazardous materials incidents. Hazardous material exposures may result in secondary contamination of emergency departments, or delayed clinical effects. Poison control centers specialize in the management of patients exposed to toxic substances; however, poison control center notification is not required. Purpose: The objective is to determine the frequency of poison control center notification after serious hazardous materials incidents when patients were transported to a hospital. Methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted of serious hazardous materials incidents as reported by DOT, matched with data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers from 2002 through 2006 that involved patient transport. Incidents were divided into four groups: those reported to a poison control center within 0-360 minutes of the incident; those reported within 361-1440 minutes of the incident; those reported within 1441-4320 minutes of the incident; and no poison control center notification. Analyses were performed on variables including date, time, substance, and time to notification. Data were received in January 2008. Results: One hundred fifty-four serious incidents met inclusion criteria. One hundred thirty-four incidents (87%) occurred without poison control center notification. Poison control centers were notified in 20 incidents (12.9%); 15 incidents (9.7%) were reported within 0-360 minutes of the incident (M=115 minutes, range=5-359 minutes); four incidents (2.6%) were reported within 361-1440 minutes of the incident (M=652 minutes, range=566-750 minutes); and one incident (0.7%) was reported after 4320 minutes following the incident. Conclusions: Most serious hazardous materials incidents involving patient transport are not reported to poison control centers. Opportunities exist to increase utilization of poison control center resources without increasing financial burdens of the hazardous materials incident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-666
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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