From gargling bleach to putting it in food, survey shows a third of Americans misuse the chemical amid pandemic
Researchers surveyed 502 adults on May 4, soon after Trump suggested research on injecting disinfectants to ward off the disease
Fears of contracting Covid-19 is driving Americans to put themselves in harm's way. According to a survey, a third of the US adults are misusing bleach in dangerous ways, from gargling the harmful chemical to putting in their food.
Researchers surveyed 502 adults on May 4, soon after President Donald Trump suggested research on injecting disinfectants to ward off the disease. Disinfectants not only kill the new coronavirus occupying surfaces such as door handles but can also be poisonous if humans were to inhale or ingest it. What is more, there has been an uptick in the number of calls to poison centers since the pandemic took off.
The poll, which investigated the reasons behind the sharp rise in calls, found that a poor understanding of how to use these products was to blame. "Knowledge gaps were identified in several areas, including safe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of recommended personal protective equipment when using cleaners and disinfectants, and safe storage of hand sanitizers, cleaners, and disinfectant," the Centers for Drug Control and Prevention (CDC) said in their report, adding that people should follow instructions printed on the products.
Nearly 39% of the participants reported using bleach on food products, applying household cleaning and disinfectant products to the skin, and inhaling or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants to avoid catching the disease, the researches added.
As for preparing disinfectants, only 23% of participants knew that room temperature water should be used to dilute bleach solutions. Mixing bleach with vinegar and ammonia can be dangerous, as it could generate chlorine and chloramine gases — when inhaled they can trigger severe lung tissue damage. Still, only 35% reported knowing that bleach should not be mixed with vinegar and 58% of combining the chemical with ammonia.
However, most adults said they used personal protective equipment while disinfecting surfaces. The survey found that 64% and 71% of the participants knew that certain products require them to use eye protection and gloves, respectively. About 68% were aware of washing their hands before and after using cleaners and disinfectant, and 73% responded that deploying these products requires adequate ventilation. And 79% of respondents were aware of keeping cleaners and disinfectants and 54% of hiding hand sanitizers away from the reach of children.
Regarding risky behavior, 19% said they sprayed bleach to food items such as fruits and vegetables, while 18% reported using household cleaning and disinfectant products on hands or skin. A small proportion engaged in practices, which include inhaling vapors from household cleaners or disinfectants, drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.
People who misused disinfectants and cleaners reported suffering from health issues, including nose or sinus irritation, skin and eye irritation, dizziness, lightheadedness, or headache, upset stomach, or nausea or breathing problems.
The CDC insists that educating people on safe use should continue. "Public messaging should continue to emphasize evidence-based, safe cleaning, and disinfection practices to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission in households, including hand hygiene and cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces," the CDC said.