NEW JERSEY: Swallow something you shouldn't? Montville doctor will take your call
Posted: November 30th, 2009 - 10:56am
Source: Daily Record
Dr. Stephen Marcus is the state watchdog no one knows.
But if your child swallows something he shouldn't, or if hospital patients exhibit symptoms of exposure to a potentially dangerous substance, it is Marcus and his staff at the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System who answer the call.
The mission of the poison center, as it is commonly called, is clear, Marcus said.
"We look for anything strange."
Marcus said in the 1980s, the manufacturer of Polar brand ice cream bars issued a nationwide recall because of listeria contamination.
"It was nearly a perfect storm," Marcus said. "It was a July 4 weekend. Every supermarket chain was having a sale on Polar bars. We were getting 1,500 calls a day from people who were scared out of their minds. We got bombed."
People were calling to see if they would be affected because they had eaten one of the recalled ice cream bars three week before, he said.
"That was an amazing thing to live through," he said.
The center produces numerous guides to help people understand new information, hosts education sessions — nearly 40,000 in 2008 — and handled about 70,000 calls to the hotline. All acute-care hospitals are required to be members of the poison center as part of their state license.
A concern, he said, is the public is becoming "almost numb" about health alerts or produce recalls.
"This is frightening," he said. "Most of those recalls are relatively innocous — a nut in a candy bar — but to the person who is allergic, it could be devastating. What we are seeing is the development of a syndrome in people who are not paying attention."
There also is a rising distrust of the information that is released, he said. This is evident in the calls about the safety of vaccines regarding mercury.
"If we can convince people that the risk is minimal, unless they are in a high-risk group, that's what we're here for," Marcus said.
But he knows his staff is competing with the Internet, and, he said, "there's a lot of really bad information on the Internet."