An astonishing press conference last month saw President Trump suggest some unusual avenues of research for treating Covid-19 including putting UV light inside the body and cleaning our insides with disinfectant. Of the two very dangerous ideas, it seems the latter made an impression as, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), American citizens have been getting creative with caustic cleaning products to tackle the threat of coronavirus.
A CDC report released in April revealed that the US' Poison Control had seen a sharp rise in phone calls regarding accidents in the home, with one woman even managing to cook up chlorine gas in her sink while washing produce. The CDC noted that advice on cleaning and disinfection practices within a household setting in the United States, particularly regarding specifically how to rid your home of SARS-CoV-2, were limited, so carried out a survey to put these accident calls into context.
An online survey of 502 US adults in May 2020 quizzed the participants on practices regarding household cleaning and disinfection during the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings revealed that knowledge gaps existed in several areas, including the safe preparation of cleaning products, what necessary protective gear should be worn when cleaning, and how to store disinfectant products.
The report discovered 39 percent of participants were carrying out dangerous practices in the home to protect themselves from Covid-19 such as washing food produce with bleach, applying cleaning products meant for the home to their skin as well as intentionally ingesting, or inhaling cleaning products for some perceived health benefit.
The worrying statistics included 4 percent of respondents saying they had drunk or gargled diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions; 6 percent had inhaled vapors of such products; 10 percent had misted their body with household cleaning and disinfectant products; 18 percent had tried to clean their hands and skin with the same products; and 19 percent said they had applied bleach to fruits and vegetables in an attempt to clean them.
One quarter (25 percent) of respondents reported at least one adverse health effect during the previous month (April) that they believed had resulted from using cleaners or disinfectants, including nose or sinus irritation (11 percent); skin irritation (8 percent); eye irritation (8 percent); dizziness, lightheadedness, or headache (8 percent); upset stomach or nausea (6 percent); or breathing problems (6 percent). Only half (51 percent) strongly agreed and 31 percent somewhat agreed that they knew how to clean and disinfect their home safely.
The CDC concluded that while public announcements should still encourage hand washing and effective cleaning in homes as well as public and work spaces, these should be evidence-based and followed up with advice against potentially harmful practices. “Messaging should also emphasize avoidance of high-risk practices such as unsafe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of bleach on food products, application of household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhalation or ingestion of cleaners and disinfectants,” it said in a statement.