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Pattern of Chemical Poisoning, Riyadh 1999-2001.


The global problem of chemical poisoning has been confirmed as extensive by a variety of independent estimates. A recent estimate by WHO task group indicates that there may be one million serious unintentional chemical poisoning each year, and almost two million people are hospitalized for suicide attempts with pesticides which is one type of chemical poisoning. Acute chemical poisoning is the third most common cause of death in the home. This study aims to describe the pattern of chemical poisoning in Riyadh region and to highlight some associated demographic features.


This cross-sectional study was performed by analysis of data extracted from registers of all recorded cases of chemical poisoning reported to Riyadh Directorate, Ministry of health, Saudi Arabia, during a period of three years (1999- 2001). Cases of chemical poisoning were defined as all cases that result from ingestion of (or contact with) substances that can produce toxic effects. A data collection form containing Patient's demographic characteristics, type and name of poisonous substance, its main use, and time, route and circumstances of exposure was used.


Most cases of chemical poisoning were under five years of age (66.6%), with males (632 or 56%) predominating females (501 or 44%) (ratio 1.3:1.0). The majority of studied cases were Saudis (93%). Pharmaceutical products were the most common cause of poisoning (67.7%), followed by antiseptics. Solid form (tablets) of poisoning substances was the most common form (54.2%), followed by liquids (37%). Only around one third of poisoning exposures reported symptoms in general, vomiting being the most common. The most common form of poisoning was mainly accidental (83.7%), and most occurred at home (94.7%). The oral route was the most common mode of toxin ingestion (91.6%), followed by inhalation (6%). Most poisoning cases were reported on the same day (81.8%). The mortality was 1%.


This study confirmed that the problem of chemical poisoning, especially among young children at home. Health education for parents and other caregivers of young children is recommended. Child-resistant containers should be used instead of envelopes for packing of drugs. The initiation and enforcement of Regional poisoning control centers is important for rapid identification and treatment of poisoning accidents, and are imperative in their prevention through planning, research, and education.