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CDC Reports Rise in Accidental Poisonings During Pandemic

Cases involving household cleaners and disinfectants up 20 percent

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Accidental poisonings from household cleaners and disinfectants have increased as Americans are spending more time at home in an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

During the first three months of the year, 55 poison centers across the United States received 45,550 exposure calls related to cleaners and disinfectants, or about 20 percent more than the 37,822 reported during the same period a year ago, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The increase in total calls was seen across all age groups.

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The CDC report notes that the data does not provide a “definite link” between poison exposures and coronavirus cleaning efforts but acknowledges that “there appears to be a clear temporal association with increased use of these products.”

The daily number of calls to poison centers “increased sharply” at the beginning of March, around the same time the virus started spreading in the U.S. The CDC has encouraged people to properly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces — such as doorknobs, faucets and kitchen counters — to help mitigate the transmission of the novel coronavirus. But it cautions to do so safely by following label directions, not mixing chemicals, wearing protective gear, using cleaning products in well-ventilated areas and storing them out of reach of children.

Inhaling fumes accounts for the largest percentage of the increase in calls to poison centers. Bleach appears to have been the main culprit.

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