Website: https://www.illinoispoisoncenter.org/ and http://ipcblog.org/ (Blog)
Location: 222 S Riverside Plaza #1900, Chicago, IL 60606
Fun fact: Illinois Poison Center is the nation’s oldest poison center! This year they are celebrating their 65th anniversary
Founded in 1953 at Rush Saint Luke’s Hospital, the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) is the oldest poison control center in the nation. It is hard to imagine where the American Association of Poison Control Centers would be if not for its founding and continued presence in the association. As the oldest poison center the IPC certainly has its share of stories to tell.
Dr. Michael Wahl, Dr. Carol DesLauries, and Educator Vick Dance in a recent conversation, recalled quite a few notable stories to the central office. One that stood out was Dr. Burda’s retelling through his blog post about the 1982 Tylenol Murders. Dr. Tony Burda starts out with a chilling quote, “Everyone has a tendency to remember where they were and what they were doing on a day something very significant happened in the world… In the toxicology world, one incident that stands out is the Tylenol-cyanide death which rattled Chicago and the entire nation in 1982.”
A mysterious person had switched several Tylenol pills with cyanide capsules, resulting in several deaths. The poison center at the time averaged 40-60 calls per day. The day the incidents were reported, the IPC was taking more than 600 calls per day. The center became a focal point during the crisis, as staff regularly gave interviews, served as a drop-off point for potentially laced Tylenol, and worked around the clock to monitor and respond to the situation. While Dr. Burda notes that he never wants anything like this to happen again, IPC stands prepared, “A few grizzled veterans like me, and a large number of younger, more energetic, healthcare professionals, are ready, willing, and able to step up to the public health challenges we may encounter.”
Still, the center stresses it is not all about cyanide and Tylenol. The IPC recalls several instances which they jokingly refer to as “Crazy Fish Stories.” One story involves how a family bought pufferfish from a market (which is illegal in the U.S.) and consumed them, resulting in a large amount of tetrodotoxin in their system. In collaboration with several government agencies, the IPC helped determine that 5,000 fish were illegally labeled as “monk fish” instead of the illegal pufferfish and shipped to the state. With swift action, the IPC, FDA, and CDC managed to stop the widespread consumption of these fish before more families consumed them.
While not all stories are exciting, the center continues to help in any situation with expertise and enthusiasm. Staffed with 21 specialists and one poison information provider, the IPC continues to be a team of highly qualified professionals on guard 24/7 for any potential poisoning emergency.