NPDS is a national database of detailed information collected from each call, uploaded in near real-time, from the 57 participating regional poison centers (PCs) located across the US. NPDS is owned and operated by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). Since 2001, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborated with AAPCC to use NPDS for surveillance of chemical, poison and radiological exposures. In March of 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami damaged the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, causing a radiological incident classified as a "major accident" according to the International Nuclear Event Scale. The incident resulted in the release of radioactive iodine (I-131) into the global environment, which was detected in precipitation in parts of the United States. While no adverse health effects were expected, concerned citizens contacted public health officials at the local, state and federal levels. Many started to acquire and use potassium iodide (KI) and other iodide-containing products intended for thyroid protection from I-131, even though this was not a public health recommendation by state and federal public health agencies. Shortly after international media coverage began, regional PCs began receiving calls regarding the Japan radiological incident. State and federal health officials were interested in identifying health communication needs and targeting risk communication messages to address radiation concerns and KI usage recommendations as part of the public health response. This was done in part through NPDS-based surveillance.
To describe how the National Poison Data System (NPDS) was used for surveillance of individuals with potential incident-related exposures in the United States resulting from the Japan earthquake radiological incident of 2011. Our secondary objective is to briefly describe the process used to confirm exposures identified through NPDS-based surveillance.