As lockdown rolls into yet another week for many citizens across the globe, many of us are getting more than a little restless. Protests against lockdown are kicking off in the states and some are finding inventive ways to pass the time while staying at home. For others, the time inside has inspired a spurt of spring cleaning, fueled by just a little Covid-induced germaphobia, but some cleaning mishaps have led to a rise in incidents being reported to US Poison Control.
The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at calls related to cleaner and disinfectant exposure from January to March of this year and found they were up 20.4 and 16.4 percent respectively from the same time last year. While the team can’t conclude for certain that this is down to lockdown cleaning routines (it could just be a surge of bad luck), the authors state “there appears to be a clear temporal association” between the shift in lifestyle and the increased use of cleaning products.
When they reviewed the topic of the calls, it was found that bleach, non-alcohol disinfectants, and hand sanitizers constituted the bulk of exposure complaints, representing the biggest percentage increase compared to the same reports last year.
One particularly unfortunate case involved a woman responding to news reports that washing fresh produce was wise at this time. Due to toxicity issues, it's recommended that fresh produce only be washed with running water rather than household dish soaps. Unfortunately, our caller decided to cook up a virus-blasting cocktail of bleach, vinegar, and hot water. After leaving the veg in the mixture to soak, she began to have difficulty with her breathing. In the hospital, it was discovered she had low levels of oxygen in her blood as a result of the chlorine gas she accidentally made in her kitchen. Yep, combining bleach with an acid creates toxic chlorine gas, and we strongly advise against making any at home.
Another case saw a preschooler ingest an unknown quantity of alcohol gel from a large bottle of hand-sanitizer. 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 child was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit and later recovered.
The report recommends that lockdown cleaning enthusiasts keep safe by carefully reading the instructions on any products they buy, only ever using room-temperature water for dilution, and resisting the urge to make their own combinations of detergents. Many common household cleaning products contain corrosive ingredients, so make sure you wear gloves and eye protection and keep a window open. If you’ve got little ones in the house, it’s also best to keep products out of reach or locked away to avoid kids taking a curious sip of dangerous substances.