NEW YORK - Poison control hotlines around the U.S. reported a 20% increase in calls related to exposure to household cleaners and disinfectants in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2019, the CDC said.
Although the agency stopped short of entirely pinning the increase on the efforts by Americans to clean their homes out of fear the coronavirus, the number of daily calls to poison centers "increased sharply" in the beginning of March, which tracks with the growth of COVID-19 cases and health warnings.
"Although a casual association cannot be demonstrated, the timing of these reported exposures correspond to increased media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of consumer shortages of cleaning and disinfectant products, and the beginning of some local and state stay-at-home orders," a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report stated.
The MMWR highlighted a disturbing case of a woman who said she heard on the news that she should clean groceries before consuming them.
"She filled a sink with a mixture of 10% bleach solution, vinegar, and hot water, and soaked her produce," the MMWR stated. "While cleaning her other groceries, she noted a noxious smell described as 'chlorine' in her kitchen."
The woman had trouble breathing and started coughing and wheezing, the report said, so she called 911. An ambulance brought her to an ER, where she was treated with oxygen and bronchodilators and released.
The CDC recommends that when you clean your home you use EPA-approved products, never mix chemicals (for example, mixing chlorine bleach and ammonia creates toxic vapors that can kill you), always wear protective gloves, and make sure to have proper ventilation.
To make a safe bleach-based disinfecting solution, mix 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water, according to the CDC, which has a detailed guide to safely cleaning your home here.