NSC Survey: Most Americans Need Primer on Poisoning's Impact

Poisoning, particularly from overdoses of prescription and illicit drugs, is now the fastest-rising cause of accidental death, with major increases among working-age adults, National Safety Council data shows. The most rapid growth has occurred among the 45- to 64-year-old age group, followed by the 25-44 age group and the 15-24 age group.

Once a leading cause of death among children, today the death rate from poisoning for children under 6 years of age is just 0.4 per 100,000. Yet, according to a national survey of American workers' attitudes on safety issues released Monday here in Chicago at the NSC's 95th annual safety and health Congress, most people (81 percent) believe children are at greatest risk for poisoning, while less than 4 percent said adults. When asked to rank potential causes of poisoning, 53 percent said household chemicals were most commonly associated with fatal poisoning while 34 percent pointed to drugs and medicine.

"The widespread and pervasive use and abuse of over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs among our middle class, middle age workers is a serious and growing issue," said NSC President and CEO Alan C. McMillan. "We're extremely concerned about the lack of awareness and understanding about this issue and its ramifications for families, businesses, communities, and society as a whole."

Automobile accidents continue to be the leading cause of accidental deaths, although rates have declined in recent years because of awareness campaigns promoting seat belts, safety features, and safe driving practices, NSC said. Poll respondents overwhelmingly (89 percent) recognized that talking on a cell phone while driving is a dangerous distraction, and 42 percent said they never do it.

When asked which of the following areas poses the greatest risk to their overall health and well-being, respondents rated accidental injuries (46 percent) higher than violent crime (25 percent), epidemics (11 percent), natural disasters (9 percent), and a terrorist attack (9 percent).

"We know preventive measures work," said McMillan, a former deputy assistant secretary of OSHA. "Employers are the key to our biggest challenge, which is reaching employees and their families with information about their risks of accidental injury and death, and what they can do to minimize those risks where they are occurring, in their homes and their communities."

The survey of 1,614 randomly selected adults was conducted by InfoSurv Market Research Aug. 7-14, 2007.

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