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COVID-19 Fear Leading to Unsafe Cleaning Product Practices

Survey respondents admit to having drank or gargled bleach

June 22, 2020

Cleaning professionals are well trained in the safe use of cleaning chemicals, such as following dilution instructions and wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). However, not everyone is as careful with cleaning products. With the coronavirus pandemic leading to an increased awareness of hygiene, some consumers who are not accustomed to deep cleaning and disinfecting practices are putting their health in danger.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers analyzed data from an online survey of more than 500 U.S. adults about their general knowledge and practices related to cleaners and disinfectants. Nearly two out of five adults surveyed (39%) said they used these products in non-recommended, often dangerous ways to prevent themselves from contracting COVID-19.

Among the respondents who reported they had engaged in these high-risk cleaning product practices:

  • 19% applied bleach to food items, including fruits and vegetables
  • 18% used household cleaning and disinfecting products on their hands or skin
  • 10% misted their body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray
  • 6% inhaled vapors from household cleaners or disinfectants
  • 4% drank or gargled diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, or other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.

Most of the respondents (77%) didn’t know they should use only room-temperature water to dilute bleach solutions, and 65% were unaware that they shouldn’t mix bleach with vinegar.

One-quarter of the respondents reported experiencing at least one adverse health effect, which they believed resulted from the use of disinfectants or cleaners. Among the effects they experienced:

  • 11% reported nose or sinus irritation
  • 8% reported skin irritation
  • 8% reported eye irritation
  • 8% reported dizziness, lightheadedness, or headache
  • 6% reported upset stomach or nausea
  • 6% reported breathing problems.

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