Be careful how you clean in the fight against coronavirus, CDC says

Grant Boone
April 23, 2020

Inhalation represented the largest percentage increase from 2019 to 2020 among all exposure routes, with an increase of 35.3% for all cleaners and an increase of 108.8% for all disinfectants.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say they suspect, but can not prove, the spike in accidental poisonings from cleaners and disinfectants is related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has led some concerned citizens to overdo it, leading to emergency situations.

For instance, most of the dramatic rise in poison-related calls occurred since early March, when the pandemic began to be felt close to home, on United States soil.

"Keep cleaning and disinfectant chemicals such as bleach and hand sanitizers away from kids", the CDC wrote Tuesday on Twitter.

The breakdown included 28,158 calls related to cleaners and 17,392 reports linked to disinfectants, the CDC said, an increase of 20.4 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively, over the same period past year. Year-over-year, the number of poisonings has increased by 20%, and CDC researchers believe that the coronavirus pandemic is The Driving Force.

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Poisoning incidents may have increased even more sharply than the report suggests, since the report was based on statistics of calls received by poison control centers only, and statistics concluded at the end of March.

In the CDC report, the agency lists a couple of specific cases in which both adults and children have become ill due to overexposure to cleaning chemicals. The first involved a woman who attempted to clean produce by filling her sink with hot water and a solution of bleach and vinegar.

While the victim was cleaning her groceries, she reported smelling a strong "chlorine" smell in her kitchen. Bleach accounted for the largest share of the increase overall, but for young children the rise was mainly in mishaps involving nonalcohol disinfectants and hand sanitizers, the CDC reported.

The CDC notes that the dramatic increase in the number of poisoning cases reported is due to a number of factors associated with the pandemic. She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where it was determined she had low oxygen in the blood and wheezing. Still, they also encourage doing it safely by following label directions, wearing protective gear, and storing chemicals out of reach of young children.

She vomited while in the ambulance and was nearly non-responsive. The child was found unresponsive and taken to the hospital where it was found she had a blood alcohol level of 273 milligrams per deciliter, around three to four times the legal limit to drive. The girl recovered after staying in intensive care overnight and went home after two days.

The health agency recommended that to avoid such exposures, people using cleaning products should always read and follow instructions on labels, only use water at room temperature for dilution, and avoid mixing chemicals.

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