An online survey conducted by the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on June 5, found that one in three Americans used cleaning products “unsafely” to fight coronavirus. The survey was taken in May, after President Donald Trump joked about injecting disinfectants into the body as a solution to the pandemic.
Out of all the “high-risk” practices listed by the CDC, using bleach to wash fruits, vegetables, or other food is the most common habit, which 19 percent of the 502 adult respondents admitted to doing. Eighteen percent said they used cleaning and disinfectant products on their hands and skin. Most surprising however, are those who said they drank or gargled bleach solution (4 percent), household cleaners (4 percent), and soapy water (4 percent).
The CDC said that since the pandemic started in the U.S., there has been a “sharp increase” in calls to poison centers related to an exposure to cleaners and disinfectants. It increased further in April, following Trump’s comments about using disinfectants in the body. Poison centers in the U.S. reported over 5,000 bleach-related cases that month, a dramatic increase from under 2,800 cases in the same period last year.
While there is no confirmed causal relationship between the reported incidents of exposure to cleaning products and COVID-19 prevention practices, there is a “clear temporal association” between the two, the CDC said. To address the harmful trend, household cleaner manufacturers, local health departments, and medical experts even issued statements warning people against ingesting cleaning products.
According to the CDC’s survey, respondents who engaged in at least one “high-risk” practice reportedly experienced negative health impacts — nose or sinus irritation, skin irritation, and dizziness — more often than respondents who did not engage in such practices.
It also found that many Americans don’t know how to safely handle and store these cleaning products. For example, a mere 23 percent of respondents were aware that room temperature water should be used to dilute bleach solutions, while only 35 percent knew that bleach should not be mixed with vinegar. Fifty-four percent of respondents agreed that hand sanitisers should be kept out of the reach of children.
Despite the high-risk practices and lack of proper cleaning knowledge identified in the survey, 82 percent of respondents felt that they knew how to clean and disinfect their home safely, the CDC noted.
Though it did not directly reference Trump’s comments on using disinfectants in the body, the CDC warned that all “public messaging” about COVID-19 prevention should emphasise “evidence-based, safe cleaning and disinfection practices.”
The coronavirus pandemic has infected over 1.9 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 110,510. According to the CDC’s recommendations for routine household cleaning, label instructions should be followed when using household cleaners and disinfectants. These may include precautions such as wearing gloves and keeping the area well-ventilated during disinfection.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.