Americans have been misusing an array of household disinfectants, including bleach, in the belief these practices might help ward off the COVID-19 infection, says a new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study, entitled “Knowledge and Practices Regarding Safe Household Cleaning and Disinfection for COVID-19 Prevention”, was published by the CDC on Friday, and warns of the health consequences of blithely injecting such products or putting them on one’s body as a potential coronavirus remedy.
As it surveyed its 502 participants, the study set about to discover how much the people knew about household disinfectants and if or how they were using them to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the CDC report, 4 per cent of those surveyed confessed they had either drank or gargled using such household agents as bleach.
Some 18 per cent of survey participants admitted having applied household disinfectants to their skin, with around 10 per cent having inhaled fumes from the potentially toxic products.
"These practices pose a risk of severe tissue damage and corrosive injury and should be strictly avoided," the report said.
Underscoring the need for public messaging to avoid people risking poisoning themselves, the report states:
"Although adverse health effects reported by respondents could not be attributed to their engaging in high-risk practices, the association between these high- risk practices and reported adverse health effects indicates a need for public messaging regarding safe and effective cleaning and disinfection practices aimed at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in households."
Concerns over ingestion of household cleaning products had soared in April after US President Donald Trump speculated at a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on 23 April, that disinfectants, "by injection inside or almost a cleaning," could potentially be used to clean the lungs of coronavirus-infected people.
Time cited data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) in mid-May, showing a surge in the number of calls to poison control hotlines over unintentional poisonings from misusing household disinfectants. The number of cases had nearly doubled, as compared to those registered in March 2019 and more than doubled April 2019's case numbers.
Subsequently, at another White House briefing, Trump dismissed responsibility for the fact that some individuals had taken him seriously, stating that he couldn’t “imagine why” there were reports of a surge in reported poisonings.
Trump reiterated to journalists that his comments were intended to be “sarcastic.”