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Chapter: Modern Medical Toxicology: General Principles: Introduction

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Epidemiology of Poisoning

It has been estimated that some form of poison directly or indi-rectly is responsible for more than 1 million illnesses worldwide annually, and this figure could be just the tip of the iceberg since most cases of poisoning actually go unreported, especially in Third World countries.

EPIDEMIOLOGY OF POISONING

It has been estimated that some form of poison directly or indi-rectly is responsible for more than 1 million illnesses worldwide annually, and this figure could be just the tip of the iceberg since most cases of poisoning actually go unreported, especially in Third World countries. The incidence of poisoning in India is among the highest in the world: it is estimated that more than 50,000 people die every year from toxic exposure.

The causes of poisoning are many—civilian and indus-trial, accidental and deliberate. The problem is getting worse with time as newer drugs and chemicals are developed in vast numbers. The commonest agents in India appear to be pesticides (organophosphates, carbamates, chlorinated hydro-carbons, pyrethroids and aluminium/zinc phosphide), seda-tive drugs, chemicals (corrosive acids and copper sulfate), alcohol, plant toxins (datura, oleander, strychnos, and gastro-intestinal irritants such as castor, croton, calotropis, etc.),andhousehold poisons (mostly cleaning agents). Among childrenthe common culprits include kerosene, household chemicals,drugs, pesticides, and garden plants.


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