Don’t drink bleach: Texas Poison Center Network getting 100s of calls about ingesting cleaning products

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Poison Center Network is answering more calls about cleaning products including bleach, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer during this pandemic. 

Data shows across the state, 278 calls were received about ingesting bleach among people 30-years and older between March 1 to June 5. More than three hundred calls were about children 5 years or younger ingesting the product. Calls in that time period related to bleach increased 61% year-over-year, as the network dealt with 936 calls in 2019 and 1,509 in 2020.

“It’s very dangerous you can get chemical burns inside your body from drinking Clorox or disinfectants,” explained Melinda Crockom with the Commission on State Emergency Communications, which administers the poison control program.

The networks says calls about ingesting disinfectants including Lysol and hand sanitizer were also in the hundreds. Disinfectant calls increased 152% from last year. Hand sanitizer numbers show a 62% spike.

“We’re getting calls where people are ingesting these things and it looks like majority of it is unintentional,” said Crockom. “Just don’t ingest bleach, disinfectants and hand sanitizers — these things are for cleaning.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending an education campaign after a survey released Friday showed people are ingesting bleach or soapy water and misting their bodies with disinfectants to prevent COVID-19.

Authors said emphasis needs to be put on safe practices and warning people about the importance of reading labels, avoiding mixing chemical products, wearing protective gear including eye protection for potential splash hazards, and storing and using chemicals and hand sanitizers out of the reach of children and pets. 

The researchers surveyed 502 adults in May about their cleaning practices during COVID-19,  and found that nearly 40% of people who responded said they’d engage in at least one high-risk behavior, including rinsing fresh fruit and vegetables with bleach. 

Eighteen percent of those surveyed said they applied cleaning products directly on their skin, and 10 percent said they’d misted their bodies with a disinfectant spray. Four percent drank or gargled diluted bleach, soapy water or other cleaning agents. 

In Texas, the numbers show that majority of calls included minor medical effects, but 3 deaths have been reported. Crockom couldn’t detail cause or circumstances because of privacy reasons.

She also said that she’s not aware of the specific information on the calls that have been coming in, but said anyone with questions should call the emergency hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

“I really think… these are accidental. They’re unintentional,” Crockom explained. “I really think it’s them unintentionally leaving it out and especially with children and children getting into it, or if it’s an older person you know 30-plus they’re just… there are over using it.”

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