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COVID-19 Update: Calls to Poison Centers Increase Due to Improper Use of Cleaning Products

CDC reports calls up 20% nationwide, often from inhalation of toxic chemicals

April 28, 2020

Professional cleaners are well trained in the safe use of cleaning and disinfecting products, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when using chemicals, and following instructions on product labels. However, many people are not as cautious and their attempts to thoroughly clean to protect themselves from the coronavirus has led to an increase in calls to Poison Control Centers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Recent CDC data found Poison Control Centers received 45,550 exposure calls between January and March 2020, with 28,158 calls related to exposure to cleaners, and 17,392 related to disinfectants. This represents a 20% increase compared to 37,822 calls made from January through March 2019.

In response to the increase, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded nearly US$5 million to Poison Control Centers across the country to improve their capacity to respond to increased calls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poison Control Centers across the country are reporting this phenomenon. For instance, reports to the Georgia Poison Control Center of unhealthy exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants have doubled from the same period a year ago, The Augusta Chronicle reports. Poisoning calls in general have risen 9% in Georgia from last year amid the COVID-19 crisis. Many of the poisoning calls have stemmed from people improperly mixing bleach and ammonia to clean hard surfaces.

Training your staff on the proper use of cleaning chemicals, including following dilution instructions, can help avoid hazardous situations. Wearing PPE such respirators and disposable masks over the nose and mouth can protect workers from lung damage due to frequent exposure to bleach, ammonia, and other cleaning chemicals.

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