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Calls to US poison control centers regarding exposures to cleaning products and disinfectants increased by more than 20% during the first quarter of 2020 compared with 2019, according to a CDC analysis posted online on April 20.
Since the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic began earlier this year, the CDC and other public health agencies have recommended proper cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. The sharp uptick in calls about exposures to those products began in March 2020, the CDC and the American Association of Poison Control Centers surveillance team data show. During the first quarter of 2020, US poison control centers received 45 550 such calls compared with 37 822 calls in the first quarter of 2019.
Nearly two-thirds of this year’s calls involved bleach exposure. Hand sanitizers and nonalcohol disinfectants were each involved in 36.7% of calls, but some involved mixing cleaning products. For example, a woman who heard a news account about cleaning groceries soaked her produce in bleach, vinegar, and hot water mixed together. After developing difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing, she received oxygen and bronchodilators at an emergency department and was released.
“To reduce improper use and prevent unnecessary chemical exposures, users should always read and follow directions on the label, only use water at room temperature for dilution (unless stated otherwise on the label), avoid mixing chemical products, wear eye and skin protection, ensure adequate ventilation, and store chemicals out of the reach of children,” the authors wrote.
According to news reports, states including Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Maryland reported spikes in calls to poison control lines after President Donald Trump asked whether disinfectants could be injected to treat coronavirus disease 2019 during an April 23 press briefing. The comments led a disinfectant maker to warn against ingesting or injecting cleaning products.
Kuehn BM. Spike in Poison Control Calls Related to Disinfectant Exposures. JAMA. 2020;323(22):2240. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.8307
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