It’s not unusual for the California poison control system to receive calls about household cleaners, but this weekend brought something new: people calling about the safety and health effects of putting disinfectants in their body.
“Over the weekend, we did receive a number of calls inquiring about using these products — about ingesting them,” said Stuart Heard, executive director of the California Poison Control System.
He estimates up to 20 percent of calls over the weekend related to disinfectants were from people asking about consuming the products to ward off coronavirus.
Two callers had actually consumed disinfectants because they thought there were health benefits, according to Heard. One avoided injury; poison control lost contact with the other caller.
Heard says multiple callers specifically mentioned comments made by President Trump late last week suggesting disinfectants could be used as a treatment for coronavirus.
The next day, when a journalist asked about the remark, Trump said he “was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.”
The remark appears to have stirred dangerous confusion among the public.
Heard says prior to this weekend, the system had not received calls about the safety or effectiveness of consuming disinfectants. He says the department strongly advised callers against ingesting or injecting household cleaners and informed them of the health hazards.
In early March, state poison control received on average 20 calls per day related disinfectants, including questions about their household usage and accidental exposures, according to Heard. The number of calls jumped to about 60 per day in late March and early April as the coronavirus outbreak worsened in California, but leveled off to roughly 30 calls per day last week.
Over this past weekend, the system received 60 calls per day related to disinfectants. Heard estimates up to one in five were from people asking about the safety of consuming the products — questions the system had not previously encountered.
A spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health confirmed the department also received calls to its COVID-19 hotline inquiring about the safety and effectiveness of ingesting disinfectants, but could not specify the number of calls received.
If you have questions about product safety or have experienced an accidental exposure, you can reach the California Poison Control System at (800) 222-1222.
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