Best Practices for Preventing Built Environment Poisonings

  • • Develop an educational program that emphasizes the proper use of prescription medications including proper lighting to determine dosage used, avoidance of concurrent herbal medicine, avoidance of alcohol, keeping medication in original containers, monitoring the use of medication by children and teenagers, and proper storage and disposal of all medicines.
  • • Store all household products used for cleaning, lawn care, and insect and rodent control away from small children.
  • • Have the local pharmacy monitor the amount and types of medications prescribed to patients and how frequently they use them to prevent overdose problems.
  • • Pass state laws to reduce or eliminate doctor shopping for special prescriptions of painkillers.
  • • Use protective clothing when utilizing any chemicals inside or outside of the house.
  • • Do not mix chemicals together, and store and use all chemicals in a well-ventilated area.
  • • Place the Poison Control Center phone number (1-800-222-1222) in or near every telephone within the house including cell phones for general information.
  • • Call 911 if the individual is exhibiting serious symptoms or if you have any doubt about the nature of the severity of the poisoning. Provide information such as the person’s age and weight, what is on the label of the container, approximate quantity of material taken into the body, the time of the poison exposure, and your address and phone number.
  • • Local and state government should identify a single agency to coordinate response to drug overdoses and other poisonings.


Deaths caused by fires and bums are the third leading cause of fatal home injuries. In 2010, 2640 people (not including firefighters) died and 13,350 were injured by fires. Those people died from inhalation of smoke or toxic gases. Smoking is the top cause of fire-related deaths followed by residential cooking. Fire and burn injuries cost $7.5 billion a year. The groups most at risk are children age 4 and under, older adults age 65 and over, poor people, African-Americans and Native Americans. Over one third of the deaths due to home fires are in facilities without smoke alarms. Alcohol is a contributing factor in 40% of people dying in residential fires. (See endnote 11.)

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