The aim of this analysis was to contrast trends in exposure-report calls and informational queries (a measure of public interest) about mercury to the Florida Poison Control Centers over 2003–2013.Materials and methods:
Poison-control specialists coded calls to Florida Poison Control Centers by substance of concern, caller demographics, and whether the call pertained to an exposure event or was an informational query. For the present study, call records regarding mercury were de-identified and provided along with daily total number of calls for statistical analysis. We fit Poisson models using generalized estimating equations to summarize changes across years in counts of daily calls to Florida Poison Control Centers, adjusting for month. In a second stage of analysis, we further adjusted for the total number of calls each day. We also conducted analyses stratified by age of the exposed.Results:
There was an overall decrease over 2003–2013 in the number of total calls about mercury [Ratio per year: 0.89, 95% CI: (0.88, 0.90)], and calls about mercury exposure [Ratio per year: 0.84, 95% CI: (0.83, 0.85)], but the number of informational queries about mercury increased over this time [Ratio per year: 1.15 (95% CI: 1.12, 1.18)]. After adjusting for the number of calls of that type each day (e.g., call volume), the associations remained similar: a ratio of 0.88 (95% CI: 0.87, 0.89) per year for total calls, 0.85 (0.83, 0.86) for exposure-related calls, and 1.17 (1.14, 1.21) for informational queries.Conclusion:
Although, the number of exposure-related calls decreased, informational queries increased over 2003–2013. This might suggest an increased public interest in mercury health risks despite a decrease in reported exposures over this time period.