While many previous studies describe workplace-associated injuries in adolescents, few focus on toxic exposures. Such incidents are unlikely to be reported to either federal or state agencies. However, poison control centers often get called about these poisonings and might serve as a resource for monitoring their occurrence.
To describe the frequency and severity of job-related toxic exposures involving adolescents, the specific toxic agents involved, and trends over time.
Occupational toxic exposures occurring in the United States between 1993 and 1997 were analyzed using the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System database compiled by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Contingency tables with the χ2 statistic were used to test bivariate associations. Logistic regression was performed to investigate trends over time.
Of 301 228 workplace toxic exposures reported over 5 years, 8779 (3%) involved adolescents younger than 18 years. The most common agents involved were alkaline corrosives (13.2%), gases and fumes (12.0%), cleaning agents (9.7%), bleaches (8.3%), drugs (7.4%), acids (7.2%), and hydrocarbons (6.9%). The injuries were rated as severe in 14.2% of exposures, life-threatening in 0.3%, and there were 2 deaths. The proportionate frequency of occupational exposures occurring among adolescents vs adults increased over time (odds ratio, 1.003; P<.001).
Adolescent occupational toxic exposures are an underrecognized hazard in the United States. Poison control center experience can be used to fill a gap in the surveillance of such injuries.