objective of providing information to physicians for treatment of children exposed to toxic agents. During this time, visiting nurses from the board of health also visited the homes of poisoning victims in Chicago.

In 1961, the advisory committee of the poison control center in Chicago consolidated the 11 poison control centers into one information center at Presbyterian–St. Luke’s Hospital. In 1962, the Master Poison Control Center was established with Joseph R. Christian, M.D., as medical director, and Chicago pharmacist Gdalman as director responsible for operations. The advisory committee also resolved its concerns about professional liability exposure and agreed to allow direct calls to the poison control center from the public.

Embraced as a lifesaving idea by the pediatric community, the number of centers rapidly increased nationally from 1953 to 1958, when 265 poison control centers were reported to exist. This expansion occurred with no consistent funding or formal organizational structure (Arena, 1983). It was not until the 1970s that emergency medicine became a potent force creating professional demand for improved poison information. The result was the extension of standardized poison and drug information and consistent access to toxicologists. By that time, more than 660 poison control centers had developed (Scherz and Robertson, 1978). Recognizing the changing epidemiological trends, poison control centers began in the 1970s to expand their efforts beyond a primarily pediatric focus to serving the full population. However, the prevention education in centers has continued to emphasize pediatric poisoning prevention.

Evolution of Structure and Function

As noted previously, poison control centers were established to provide drug and chemical toxicity information and patient management guidance to physicians. These services were expanded to handle telephone calls from laypersons in the 1960s. Initially, most centers consisted simply of a telephone and a designated individual to answer that telephone. The individual responding to the calls at times was a clerical person, pediatric house officer (physician in training, pharmacist), or other interested (or designated) person. Neither training nor educational materials were standardized.

In 1957, the first efforts to standardize poison information were undertaken within the FDA by NCHPCC. These included (1) index cards containing information on drugs, chemicals, household products, and plants, and (2) a monthly newsletter summarizing the poisoning literature. NCHPCC also funded the publication of a book, The Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, with the first edition in 1957 (Food and Drug Administration).

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