Inhalation of household cleaners tops list as calls to poison control centres double - InfoNews

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Inhalation of household cleaners tops list as calls to poison control centres double

May 06, 2020 - 7:00 PM

Calls to Canadian poison control centres due to to the exposure of day-to-day cleaning products have more than doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Numbers released by Health Canada show that calls to poison control centres for a variety of household cleaning products from bleach to hand sanitizer more than doubled in March this year compared to March 2019.

The calls related to the exposure of cleaning products were received at the nation's five poison centres and do not specify how severely an individual was poisoned or how they were exposed to the chemicals.

Along with calls about hand sanitizer, disinfectant, and bleach the poison control centres also received large increases in calls regarding exposure to chlorine and chloramine gases. Theses gases can be created when cleaning products are mixed with bleach. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports that calls about bleach are particularly concerning because mixing bleach with vinegar, ammonia, or rubbing alcohol, can create toxic gases.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control received more calls regarding exposure by inhalation to bleach and other household cleanings than they did individuals ingesting the products. They haven't seen any serious injuries but warn ingesting or improperly mixing cleaning chemicals can be fatal.

Health Canada says the increase in calls is likely due to an increase in cleaning and disinfecting at home, combined with children and parents spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while millions of children are at home instead of school, it appears it's the adults who are making the mistakes.

Statistics from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control show that while calls have involved children, the increase in calls has been related to exposure in adults.

Whether women are doing most of the cleaning, are more likely to become exposed, or are simply more willing to pick up the phone is hard to know, however, twice the amount of women call the B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre than men.

Calls have been related to people using cleaners in excessive amounts, using chemicals that should be diluted from full strength, and mixing chemicals that should not be mixed.

The Centre says in a typical week the Drug and Poison Information Centre would receive nine calls about adults exposed to bleach. The information centre received 24 calls a week on average from March 8 to April 11.

Nationwide, in March 379 calls were made about exposure to bleach compared to March 2019 when that number was 210. March 2020 saw 214 calls regarding hand sanitizer exposure, up from 105 in March 2019. 

“We’re glad to see the people of B.C. taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but please keep in mind that cleaners and disinfectants are powerful substances and need to be used safely," B.C. CDC medical director of environmental health services said in a media release.

Both Health Canada and the B.C. CDC stress people should always read and follow the directions on the product label and never mix chemicals.

For information about how to cleaning your home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 go here.

For more information on the B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre go here.

In an emergency call 1-800-567-8911.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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