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Calls surge to poison control from exposures to cleaning chemicals

Cleaning products
Posted at 3:37 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 20:01:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 20% spike in calls to poison control centers in March compared to the same time in the last two years.

The calls, from across the U.S., were specific to exposure from cleaners and disinfectants.

"People in their zeal to fight COVID-19 are using these products inappropriately," Dr. Don Schaffner, Food Science Professor at Rutgers University, said.

While calls are up in these categories, "overall calls, no, we've had a decline over the last couple months," Lee Cantrell, Director of San Diego Division, California Poison Control Systems, said.

He said the spike in calls are from adults in their 20s-40s.

"We've had people use soap scum remover and products like that to regularly clean their hands off," he said that can be very irritating to the skin and if you accidentally ingest these chemicals you could have nausea, diarrhea, and/or vomiting.

"One poor woman used bleach and vinegar to try and clean her produce and I don't know if she cleaned her produce, but she sent herself to the hospital because she made chlorine gas and yeah, I really worry about people being safe," Dr. Schaffner said.

The CDC also relayed a story of a preschool-aged child eating hand-santizer and going to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.

The CDC recommends keeping all chemicals out of reach of children, using protective gear while cleaning with chemicals, and cleaning in a well ventilated area.

Dr. Schaffner spoke with 10News April 1st and said not to use cleaning products on food packaging or the food itself.

"There is no evidence to date that COVID-19 is spread through food or food packaging," he said.

He said the best way to clean produce is to rinse with water.

"I think the key to avoid accidental poisonings and exposures and things like that, [is to] read your labels," Cantrell said.