With no approved vaccine or treatment for the novel coronavirus, Americans are doing just about anything they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their homes. One of the things many are doing is increasing their household cleaning efforts by sanitizing and disinfecting every surface possible. However, new data suggests some Americans are going too far in their cleaning endeavors with a spike in poison control center calls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calls to poison centers have spiked since the beginning of the year. A common factor in the surge of cases? Cleaning products and hand sanitizers.
The CDC report shows 20% more calls to poison centers from January to March than in the same span last year. A notable spike occurred at the beginning of March when the outbreak reached pandemic status and the US declared a national emergency.
Calls involving bleach specifically rose by 62%. Calls involving hand sanitizers and nonalcohol disinfectants rose by about 37%.
Many factors are possibly contributing to the surge in poison center calls. For one, more people are cleaning and sanitizing more often than normal. Of those people, many are also experimenting with products and techniques which are not typical to their usual cleaning routine either out of scarcity or fear. Such practices include sanitizing grocery store produce.
The CDC reported one specific incident where a woman soaked grocery produce in a homemade concoction of vinegar, water and 10% bleach solution. She ended up developing respiratory problems and was treated for hypoxia in the emergency room.
Many calls originate from people who have used industrial bleach meant to be diluted with at-home cleaning or use bleach in poorly ventilated spaces. Others mixed bleach with other chemicals and cleaners, unknowingly producing toxic gases.
The CDC suggests the following in cleaning safely:
- Follow label directions
- Don’t mix chemicals/cleaning solutions
- Wear protective gear such as gloves and masks
- Use chemicals in a well-ventilated area
- Store chemicals and cleaning products out of reach from children
King advises everyone to stick to the cleaning routines they are used to and if those products aren’t available, soap and water can still be effective in properly cleaning your home.
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