New data suggests childhood poisonings involving household cleaner products have significantly increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading poison control experts to warn consumers about the importance of keeping potentially dangerous products out of reach from children and in secure areas.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), released a new chemical exposure alert last month, after finding a 10% increase in reports of household cleaning poisonings involving children since the coronavirus pandemic emerged in March.
As many parents and caregivers continue to work from home while children are out of school, researchers say children may be at higher risk of exposure or accidental ingestion of cleaning supplies left out due to the frequent cleaning recommended by state and government officials to prevent infections.
AAPCC researchers reviewed poison control data recorded in the National Poison Data System (NPDS) from March 1 through June 30, for both the 2019 and 2020 calendar years, and found a 10% increase in the amount of household cleaner poisonings this year. This is likely attributed to the increased demand of sanitary and cleaning products to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Researchers indicate the 10% increase in poisoning reports involved children five years of age and under. The most commonly reported household cleaner exposures involved liquid laundry detergent packets, bleaches, all purpose cleaners, drain cleaners, and oven cleaners.
Adverse health consequences related to the household cleaning products poisoning young children included a wide variety of injuries such as ocular irritation, nausea, vomiting, and possible burns depending on the product, in which a portion of children were admitted to hospitals for treatment and observation.
“During this period, 98% of exposures to household cleaners occurred in a residence”, Richard Fogelson, AAPCC Chief Executive Officer, said in the press release. “Household cleaners sometimes come in shiny bright colored packages that are intriguing to the adult eye but to a naturally curious child these packages resemble candy and toys. Our team wants to ensure that we provide the public with the most accurate data to help keep families safe and prevent accidental poison exposures.”
Health experts at the agency are encouraging consumers to be vigilant in practicing safe storage habits for chemicals and potentially dangerous household cleaners. All chemical cleaners should be either behind safety locks or up high and out of sight from children, so as not to entice them to climb on furniture.
As the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States began rapidly spreading in March, many manufacturers of common household cleaners and disinfectants were not able to keep up with the demand, resulting in some consumers to resort to mixing common household chemicals to make disinfectants. However, U.S. Poison Control Centers report these instances often caused consumers to develop more potent disinfectants that caused a series of injuries including toxic gas inhalation or harsh chemical exposures that irritate or burn the lungs and skin.
AAPCC is asking anyone that experiences an accidental chemical exposure or ingestion to immediately contact the Poison Help Hotline by dialing 1-800-222-1222 for help.