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The daily number of calls to poison centers regarding exposures to both cleaners and disinfectants increased sharply at the beginning of March. The calls included the ingestion, inhalation and dermal application of cleaners, which includes a 68% increase in calls about bleach products and a 69% increase in calls about hand sanitizers.

Poison control centers nationally received over 45,500 calls in the first three months of this year, a 20% increase in calls as compared with 2019, according to a report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The uptick comes as public health officials and CDC guidelines advise people to clean frequently touched surfaces often to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, which can live up to five days on metal.

Ingestion and inhalation were the exposures Texans most frequently reported.

On April 24, President Trump announced that researchers agreed to test UVA or other powerful lights on the skin or under the skin to kill coronavirus. Though he didn’t mention how its potential to damage cells’ DNA or its relation to cancer would affect its use.

“I see that disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, in one minute,” Trump suggested. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So, it would be interesting to check that.”

“Maybe you can maybe you can’t. I’m not a doctor, but I’m like a person who has a good,” he said, pointing in a circular motion toward his head, “you-know-what.”

After his statement, news outlets again reported another spike in calls to poison control centers, health experts and leading disinfectant distributors warn against the ingestion, inhalation and dermal application of cleaners.

Immediately, Reckitt Benckiser Group – the makers of Lysol and Dettol – issued a statement regarding the misuse of its products.

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information,” the notice stated.

National groups also wanted to remind consumers not to misuse household cleaning products.

“We want everyone follow the directions on the product so that we can safely use registered disinfectants and provide critical protection to our families.” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a news release. He went on to list various rules of safety, including:

  • Never apply the product to yourself or others.
  • Do not ingest disinfectant products.
  • Never mix products unless specified in the use directions.

About 70% of calls about the ingestion of hand sanitizers involved children age 5 or younger. The Texas Poison Center Network recommended keeping household products locked away and using child-resistant locks on cabinets.

The Surgeon General recommended that consumers who feel they might have COVID consult an actual doctor for treatment.

“PLEASE always talk to your health provider first before administering any treatment/ medication to yourself or a loved one,” U.S. Surgeon General VADM Jerome M. Adams tweeted Friday. “Your safety is paramount, and doctors and nurses are have years of training to recommend what’s safe and effective.”


Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune contributed to this report


Mollie Finch Belt is the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of The Dallas Examiner. She attended elementary school in Tuskegee, Ala.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Dallas, Texas. In 1961, she graduated from...

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