According to a new survey from the CDC, one-third of Americans have engaged in dangerous COVID-19 cleaning behavior, including washing produce with bleach and gargling with it
There are Americans taking the advice of scientists and healthcare professionals — maintaining social distancing, diligently practicing hand hygiene, wearing protective face coverings, and disinfecting high touch surfaces — all recommended measures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent COVID-19. However, according to a new survey from the governmental health organization, some people have gone a little overboard in their mission to keep the infectious and potentially deadly virus at bay. Many of them have even engaged in risky and potentially health-damaging behavior involving bleach.
According to the survey, published on June 5 in the CDC’s weekly health report, more than one-third — 39 percent — of the 502 Americans surveyed admitted to engaging in a risky cleaning practice in hopes of avoiding coronavirus. Nineteen percent — nearly one-fifth of respondents — attempted to disinfect their food (including fruits and veggies) with bleach, while 18 percent used household cleaning and disinfectant products on hands or skin, 10 percent admitted to misting their body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray, 6 percent inhaled vapors from household cleaners or disinfectants, while 4 percent copped to “drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.” None of these are methods recommended by the CDC.
As a result, one quarter of those surveyed reported at least one adverse health effect –including nose or sinus irritation, skin irritation, eye irritation, dizziness, lightheadedness, or headache, upset stomach or nausea, or breathing problems — during the previous month that likely developed as a result. The health organization points out that this risky behavior, along with the fact that many people don’t know how to prepare cleaning solutions, is likely responsible for the increase in calls to poison centers during the pandemic.
“This survey identified important knowledge gaps in the safe use of cleaners and disinfectants among U.S. adults; the largest gaps were found in knowledge about safe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions and about storage of hand sanitizers out of the reach of children,” they write. For example, mixing bleach solutions with vinegar or ammonia, as well as application of heat, can generate chlorine and chloramine gases that might result in severe lung tissue damage when inhaled.
“Furthermore, exposures of children to hand sanitizers, particularly via ingestion, can be associated with irritation of mucous membranes, gastrointestinal effects, and in severe cases, alcohol toxicity,” they continue, pointing out that pets can also be at risk of ingesting hand sanitizers and cleaning products.
In addition to following the CDC-endorsed cleaning and disinfecting methods, the health organization urges people to read instructions on all cleaning products and to follow them accordingly. They also plan on continuing their efforts to educate people about how to engage in safe and effective cleaning and sanitizing measures.
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