1-900-POISON? | Letters | Chicago Reader


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To the editors:

Just read "Health: The Politics of Poison" in your June 19 issue. It immediately occurred to me to wonder whether anyone in the business had ever considered getting a 900 number to help with their expenses. According to the article, the Rush Poison Control Center received 48,234 calls last year and its expenses were over $300,000 per year. If all of its expenses were paid for by 900 number billing, the average charge per call would be over $6.22. If that seems like too much to pay for this service, consider that somebody has to pay for it and why not the people who are getting the most direct benefit from it? The 900 number billing system could be implemented quickly, as there would be no need to pass a new law for new taxes. There would be no Government enforced monopoly, as any group who thought it was a good investment could start a 900 number poison control center to try to provide better or cheaper service. These entrepreneurs would probably find it cost-effective to advertise to make sure that anyone who needed the number would have it. A problem that would have to be worked out is how many of these 48,234 calls are made by people using a pay phone, who don't have a calling card or $6 in spare change. Another problem is what if the call must be made from a household that has requested that this type of phone call be blocked (to prevent irresponsible people from running up a large bill). Given that the government monopoly phone company must be dealt with to work out exceptions to these and any other problems, it may be easier to create a new tax. I just hope that however it is funded, this very useful service does not get dropped.

Craig W. Hunter

Oak Park


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