About Pittsburgh Poison Center

The Pittsburgh Poison Center at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh was founded in 1971 to address the alarming number of poisonings that involved children in the Pittsburgh region. The Center served southwestern Pennsylvania initially, but soon took a national leadership role among poison centers. 

By 1978, there were 661 poison centers in the U.S. and there was little consistency between and among the centers. For that reason, the Pittsburgh Poison Center developed the National Poison Data System (NPDS).  It established the first quality standards among poison centers, and a network of regional and satellite poison centers throughout the United States. The pioneering work that was done by the Pittsburgh Poison Center in the 70’s helped to provide a foundation for the current network of centers throughout the U.S.  

Poison Center Activity

Today, the Pittsburgh Poison Center serves 44 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and is one of the busiest of the 61 certified poison centers in the country. The Center responds to approximately 150,000 telephone inquiries annually.  Poisoning exposures that involve children less than six years of age constitute 50% of the calls, but the Center manages poisoning issues for people of all age groups. Everyone is at risk of being poisoned.

  • Adolescents are especially vulnerable to substances of abuse. Adults may be exposed to poisons in the workplace or be sickened by mixing household cleaning substances (e.g., bleach and ammonia).
  • Senior citizens are often the victims of medication errors or adverse drug reactions. The Pittsburgh Poison Center is here to serve the needs of everyone. 
  • The Center will also assist you with the care of your pet who may have been poisoned by a medication, plant or pesticide—nearly 7,000 pet and large animal owners consult the Center each year.

Age Distribution of Poisoning Victims

Business and Industry Consultation

In addition to its services to the public, the Pittsburgh Poison Center also provides professional consultation and services to the business and industry community for a fee. The staff provide comprehensive toxicology information and treatment recommendations to both the lay public and medical professionals on behalf of its industry partners. This includes emergency medical information as well as consultation on non-emergent toxicology problems.


The Pittsburgh Poison Center is staffed by nurses, pharmacists and physicians with specialty training in clinical toxicology. Specialists at the Center have access to the most contemporary information, data and research to assist them in providing information to callers about poisonings and treatment advice. They work 24 hours/day and every day of the year to assist callers with their inquiries and poisoning emergencies. Every call is documented in an electronic medical record and reviewed daily for quality assurance purposes.

The Pittsburgh Poison Center is a leader in toxicology research. Center staff conduct research and have published nearly 500 papers and book chapters in the medical and toxicology literature to assist others in the recognition and treatment of poisoning emergencies.