adopted the idiosyncratic Toxic Exposure Surveillance System (TESS) definitions, as established by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).
The Committee recognized that comprehensively addressing the issue of poisoning required a “systems approach,” with a broad array of government and nongovernment health agencies, including the poison control centers, working together to achieve the common goal of reducing the incidence and severity of poisonings in the U.S. population. Essential to the system is this shared goal and coordinated activities. As described later (in Chapter 9), the other agencies central to such a system include state and local health departments, emergency medical services units, and federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Food and Drug Administration, and others. Furthermore, the components of the Poison Prevention and Control System must share information freely so that each can assess its contributions and achievements. Shared information, including data from TESS, and feedback and evaluation are at the heart of an effectively functioning system. Later in the report, we make the case that the system needs to be integrated with the broader U.S. public health system.
The Committee concluded that poison control centers are essential components and building blocks of a Poison Prevention and Control System. These centers are on the front line of meeting the needs of the public and the health care community for information and guidance concerning poison exposures. Public satisfaction with this free service appears to be high. The centers have played an important historical role in providing consumer services and have provided data supporting new packaging and labeling regulations. Thus, poison control centers serve a vital public health function, accentuated by the public concerns about exposure to biological and chemical agents of terrorism.
In the future, however, poison control centers must be more stable financially, population based, and better integrated and coordinated with other stakeholders involved in the protection of the public from hazardous substances. This conclusion reflects the Committee’s assessment that the current network emerged historically with little planning and no con-