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COVID Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning Safety & COVID-19

Accident Exposures


As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, there has been a notable rise in the number of accidental exposures to household cleaning products. A study released by the CDC in April showed an increase in poison hotline calls involving cleaners and disinfectants. By the end of March, there was a 20.4% increase in calls compared to 2019; and many believe this is an underestimate in exposure since the studies only track individuals who called. There is a belief that many others were exposed but did not call poison control hotlines.

A leading cause of the spike in accidental exposures seems related to a gap in knowledge for the general public. An online survey conducted by the CDC reported that people were cleaning more frequently, but only half stated they felt that they knew how to clean and disinfect safely. Within this survey, people recognized that they used high-risk cleaning practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 . Some high-risk practices included using bleach to clean fruits and vegetables, using household cleaning/disinfectant products on the skin, and gargling, ingesting, or inhaling products. These practices can cause tissue damage and participants of the survey reported suffering from nose and sinus irritation, skin irritation, eye irritation, dizziness, lightheadedness and headaches, gastrointestinal distress, or difficulty breathing.

The following two cases provided by the CDC illustrate health concerns:

  • An adult filled their sink with a bleach solution, vinegar, and hot water to clean their produce after returning from the grocery store. This solution caused a noxious smell and they called 911 due to difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing. At the hospital, the patient was hypoxic and had wheezing which improved with treatment of oxygen and a bronchodilator. This patient was able to be discharged home after observation.

  • Another case involved a small child who ingested ethanol-based hand sanitizer left out on the kitchen table. The child had become dizzy, hit her head, vomited, and became minimally responsive. Upon arrival, to the hospital, the child’s blood-alcohol level was 273 mg/dL and they were admitted to the pediatric ICU for monitoring. A blood alcohol level that is considered the legal limit of intoxication is 80 mg/dL and it can be lethal at or above 400 mg/dL. The child recovered and was able to go home after 48 hours.


How to Reduce Unhealthy Exposures to Cleaning Products


To help combat this rise in accidental exposures to household cleaners and disinfectants, the CDC urges the public to engage in evidence-based practices and follow the labels of cleaning products. Some safe, evidence-based practices include the following recommendations by the CDC:

  • Avoid exposure

    • Avoid close distance (within 6 feet) of individuals outside the home and practice social distancing

    • Avoid large gatherings of people

    • Wear a face cloth or cloth mask when around other individuals and out in public

  • Hand Hygiene

    • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds; this is especially important after being out in public, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing

    • If using hand sanitizer, use one that contains at least 60% alcohol, and cover all surfaces of your hands and rub together until they are dry

    • Do NOT ingest hand sanitizer

  • Clean and disinfect in a safe manner

    • ​Community

      • ​To help prevent the spread of germs community sites can routinely clean frequently touched surfaces (ex: tables, handles, light switches, bathrooms, sink and electronics) with appropriate household cleaners and EPA- registered disinfectants

      • Ensure that proper equipment such as gloves and goggles are used and that the area is well ventilated

    • Household

      • ​Clean high touched surfaces daily in a household- this includes tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, remotes, keyboards, handles, toilets, and sinks

      • When cleaning refer to label for surface use

      • Wear skin protection and eye protection to protect from splashes

      • Ensure adequate ventilation (airflow) when using clean products

      • Dilute solutions with room temperature water (unless otherwise specified) when appropriate

      • Do not mix cleaning solutions

      • Store cleaning solution and hand sanitizers out of reach of children

      • If living with an individual with a known illness try to isolate that individual from other household members; this includes trying to maintain a separate bathroom and bedroom. If this is not possible, it is vital to engage in the cleaning practices stated above

    • Monitor your Health

      • ​Monitor for fever, cough, or shortness of breath

      • Take your temperature if symptoms develop

      • Contact a health care provider for a test

      • Report to the emergency room if you feel that it is a life-threatening situation

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