Cleaning with spray detergent, rubber gloves and dish cloth is the safest way to clean a surface. (BCCDC photo)

B.C. poison control officials see spike in disinfectant exposure calls amid COVID-19

BC Centre for Disease Control urging people to clean safely and not mix chemicals

Poison control officials in B.C. have been responding to a noticeable uptick in calls related to cleaning chemical exposures as many work to keep surfaces clean and COVID-19 free, sparking a warning from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

According to the centre, officials have seen a 60-per-cent spike in calls from adults over the age of 20 years old for exposure to disinfectants since early March, following confirmation of the province’s first death in a long-term care home.

While the centre usually sees nine calls in a week related to adult exposure to bleach, as of late officials have been receiving upwards of 20 calls on any given day.

On March 22, there were more than 65 calls about disinfectant exposure.

Some of the calls have been about people using cleaners in excessive amounts, using chemicals that should be diluted at full bottle strength and mixing chemicals that should not be mixed, the BCCDC said in a statement Thursday.

“Fortunately, we haven’t seen any serious injuries, but ingesting or improperly mixing cleaning chemicals can be fatal,” said Dr. Tom Kosatsky, the centre’s medical director of Environmental Health Services.

“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.”

Calls about bleach are particularly concerning, the centre continued, because mixing bleach with vinegar, ammonia or rubbing alcohol can create toxic gases.

The BCCDC is urging everyone to use household cleaners safely, by following all label directions, and never mixing chemicals – especially for cleaning food directly, in which case potable water and mild soap should suffice.

If accidentally exposed to chemicals, call the Poison Control Centre at 1-800-567-8911 and do the following first aid measures:

  • Inhalation: ventilate the area and seek fresh air
  • Eye exposure: flush eyes with water for 5-10 minutes
  • Skin exposure: flush skin with water for 5 minutes
  • Ingestion: drink ½ cup to 1 cup of water

@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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