OHS Canada Magazine

Call 844-POISON-X: Health Canada launches new national toll-free number to reach poison centres

Avatar photo

March 21, 2023
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety health canada Poison

Bottles of toxic household chemicals with warning signs on white background. Photo: Adobe Stock

Health Canada has launched a new national toll-free number to reach poison centres.

Every year, more than 1,500 people lose their lives and nearly 8,000 are hospitalized due to unintentional poisoning from medications, cleaners, cannabis products, and many other household items, it said.

Most Canadians don’t know local numbers

Unfortunately, while there are currently nine different phone numbers used to access the five poison centres in Canada, many Canadians don’t know the phone number for their local poison centre or even that the service is available, it said.

For this reason, Health Canada has launched a new toll-free number, 1-844 POISON-X, or 1-844-764-7669, in collaboration with four Canadian poison centres, to make it easier for people in Canada to access critical medical advice for poisonings.

“Through this new toll-free number, it will be easier to reach a poison centre when it is most needed and help prevent severe illnesses and death,” said Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal Minister of Health. “As a result, this will also add a layer of resilience to the health care system by reducing unnecessary visits to emergency rooms, clinics, and the doctor’s office.”


Current numbers remain active

By calling this number, Canadians will now be re-routed to their local poison centre regardless of where they are calling from in the country. The current provincial numbers remain in service and Canadians can continue using them, Health Canada said.

“A single toll-free number to access the essential services of poison centres across Canada has been a long time coming and has been the vision of the Canadian Association of Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology for over 20 years,” said Dr. Margaret Thompson, medical director, Ontario and Manitoba Poison Centre and president of the Canadian Association for Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology. “Health Canada has embraced our vision and has made this possible for all Canadians with funding and hundreds of hours of work. We are grateful and excited to see its institution.”

The launch of this toll-free number is made possible through Health Canada’s investment in the Canadian Surveillance System for Poison Information (CSSPI), which helps aggregate, analyze, and interpret pan-Canadian poison centre information in near real time to inform poison prevention and harm reduction activities.

Quick facts

  • Poison centres are the 24/7 access point for medical professionals and the public to access medical treatment advice for exposures to drugs and chemicals.
  • Poison centres manage 63% or almost two-thirds of cases remotely without the requirement to enter a health care facility.
  • In 2020, Canada’s poison centres managed 215,589 cases; more than one-third involved a child aged 5 or under.
  • In 2020, the most common substances involved in cases managed by poison centres were medications for pain relief (analgesics) and household cleaning products, such as bleach.
  • A 2020 Ipsos online survey of Canadian parents found that only 40% were aware of poison centre services or how to contact their respective poison centre.
  • The Government of Canada is working with all provinces and territories for the implementation of 1-844 POISON-X. Québec will continue using its current provincial toll-free number. If a caller indicates that they are accessing the national toll-free service from Quebec, they will be instructed to contact the Centre antipoison du Québec (1-800-463-5060).

Source: Health Canada


Stories continue below