Accidental Poisoning Cases Involving Household Products Surge Amid “Stay Home” Orders

Amid widespread “stay at home” orders in effect throughout the U.S. to combat the spread of COVID-19, multiple news outlets are reporting an influx of calls to poison control centers nationwide involving accidental poisoning caused by common household cleaning supplies.

With schools closed and children at home all day, often with parents who must work from home, children face a serious risk from chemicals and cleaning supplies that may be left out on the counter because of frequent cleaning required to prevent infections.

With cleaning products in short supply at stores and on-line retailers, some consumers are mixing common household chemicals to make more potent disinfectants, but these chemicals can also create toxic gases or harsh chemicals that irritate or burn the lungs and skin. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia can form a toxic gas called chloramine and mixing bleach and vinegar creates chlorine.

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According to a local news report from Fox 25 in Oklahoma City, poison control centers in Oklahoma have seen a 46% increase in calls about disinfectants and a 71% increase in calls about mixing chemicals and creating toxic gases.

Other reports indicate Arizona has seen a 50% increase in accidental poisoning calls involving cleaning supplies, and similar increases have been reported in other states.

Online inquiries to poison centers in Maryland and Virginia doubled since last fall, including reports of children drinking hand sanitizer. In Pennsylvania there was an 80% increase in child hand sanitizer ingestions.

But the cases of poisoning are not limited to children.

Some states report people are ingesting antifreeze as a way to fight coronavirus. Some people are trying to mix homemade hand sanitizer and using harmful and caustic chemicals by mistake.

Michigan received more 80 calls about accidental misuse of automotive products, according to reports. In Charlottesville, Virginia, consumers drank bleach or diluted bleach in an attempt to kill the COVID-19 virus.

Experts are warning consumers to be careful when attempting to mix chemicals to make homemade cleaners. They should consult reputable sources with resources including information regarding safe chemical use and mixtures, as well as safe homemade hand sanitizer recipe information.

If anyone experiences an accidental chemical ingestion they should contact the American Association of Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 for immediate help.


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