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Nation’s Oldest Poison Center Marks 60 Years of Service

In 1953, America saw a flourishing economy, low crime rates, and more than 1,000 child deaths from poisonings per year. This was the 1950’s, when an industrial boom meant increased availability of chemicals, drugs and household products, many of which were poorly labeled, resulting in a surge of pediatric poisonings. To combat this problem, the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) was started as a free service to help Illinoisans deal with poison exposures. Today, as the IPC celebrates its 60th anniversary, the number of pediatric poisoning deaths in the U.S. has dropped from over 1,000 to approximately 20 per year.

“I continue to be amazed at how a simple call to our experts can serve as a lifeline in many situations,” said Dr. Michael Wahl, IPC Medical Director. “We are very proud of the difference the IPC continues to make in ensuring public safety.”

In the early years of the IPC, there were over one hundred poison centers in the state; many housed in hospital’s emergency or pharmacy departments. In 1997, when the last poison center located at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke was about to shut its doors, the IPC moved to the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council .

For six decades, the IPC has been a resource for the public and health care professionals alike, and a trusted voice in potentially hazardous situations. A nationally recognized staff of 22 pharmacists, nurses and toxicologists serve the largest single population of any poison center in the country, managing nearly 82,000 calls per year in the state . Two IPC toxicology experts, Anthony Burda and Connie Fischbein, have served the IPC and the people of Illinois for a combined 63 years.

“It has truly been an honor to be affiliated with the nation’s first poison control center and watch it grow into a prestigious center for toxicology services in the United States,” said Burda.

Through various public health situations like the Tylenol cyanide poisonings in 1982 to the distribution of KI pills to residents living near nuclear power plants in 2012 , the IPC has helped thousands of Illinoisans navigate potentially dangerous situations.  The IPC’s services improve patient care while reducing calls to 911 and visits to doctor’s office and emergency departments, helping to save Illinois taxpayers more than $50 million dollars per year in health care costs.

“There’s nothing better than someone you know you can trust telling you how to handle every possible situation and letting you know you’re not alone,” said recent caller Michelle DeGeorge.

As the IPC looks forward to providing care to Illinois residents for the next 60 years, its staff is grateful for continued support from the Illinois Congressional Delegation.

Please visit IPC website , Facebook and Twitter pages for more information.