There are a growing number of cases where people are having cleaner and disinfectant-related accidental poisonings since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
According to Health Canada, February and March combined showed a 58 percent increase from the same period a year earlier in reported exposures related to cleaning products, bleaches, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and chlorine and chloramine gases.
Poisonings involving bleach are most common, making up 38 percent of all calls to poison centres in March.
The federal health agency attributes the increase to factors such as:
More cleaning products in homes as people stock up in isolation.
More exposure to those products as people clean and disinfect their homes more often.
More time spent at home — including for children.
Health Canada and the five regional poison centres from across the country — which represent all provinces and territories — provided CBC News with the most-recent numbers of reported exposure to toxic cleaning products from February and March in 2019 compared to 2020.
During those two months, the number of exposures reported to poison centres went up from 954 in 2019 to 1,506 in 2020.
According to reports, the number is likely higher since some people won’t report less-serious reactions to poison centres or don’t recognize the symptoms associated with cleaner-related poisonings.
Health Canada says numbers for April 2020 aren’t yet available.
How to use cleaning products safely:
Read The Label (Including The Fine Print)
Store Your Cleaning Products Safely
Keep your cleaning products away from children and pets, because many of them are dangerous if ingested or if they come into prolonged contact with skin, or any contact with eyes.
Keep the products in their original containers, so you know what they are and when they expire.
If you need to dilute a cleaning product, or you make homemade cleaning products, be sure to label and date your containers.
Keep your household cleaners away from food storage areas. You do not want to get cleaners and food mixed up or combined in any way.
Store your household cleaners in a cool, dry place.
Dispose Of Your Home Cleaning Products Properly
When you finish with a cleaning product you need to make sure you dispose of it properly.
Many times the label itself will explain any specific rules for disposal. Follow them (see Rule 1 above).
Other considerations when disposing of cleaning products properly are as follows:
Keep even empty bottles and containers away from kids and pets, so they cannot get into them. Consider putting them into a closed garbage bag or can, instead of an open wastebasket in your home.
Do not flush disposable cleaning wipes down the toilet.
Do not pour cleaning products down your sink drain or into the toilet.