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The Connection Between COVID-19 and Poison Control Calls

With COVID-19 spreading across the country, it isn’t much of a surprise that people are wanting to do everything they can to stay safe and healthy. This may come in the form of new cleaning and disinfecting methods at home, at work, and more. Many people have started washing their hands more than ever and hand sanitizer is commonly seen around public spaces, in homes, and elsewhere. The problem with these increased measures is there is also an increased likelihood of exposures to poisons and toxins are not handled correctly.

As of April 29, 2020, the United States has reported over one million cases of COVID-19 and over 60,000 deaths due to the virus. To combat the virus, the CDC has recommended that proper cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as door knobs, light fixtures, counter tops, restrooms, and more.

Increase in Poison Control Calls

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Poison Control Centers recently conducted a study to determine if there was an association between COVID-19 cleaning recommendations and calls to the National Poison Data System Centers. To do this, they compared the calls from January through March 2020 with the calls during the same 3-month period in 2018 and 2019.

There are some 55 poison centers in the United States that provide free, 24-hour professional advice and medical management information regarding exposures to poisons, chemicals, drugs, and medications. During January-March 2020, these centers received 45, 550 exposure calls. There were 28,158 calls related to cleaners and 17,392 related to disinfectants; an overall increase of 20.4% and 16.4% from January-March 2019 (37,822 calls) and January-March 2018 (39,122 calls), respectively.

The daily number of calls to poison control centers saw a sharp increase beginning in March 2020 due to exposures to cleaners and disinfectants. The calls involved people of all ages, however, exposures among children ages five or less represented a large percentage of the calls.

The Case Studies

For example, a pre-school aged child was found unresponsive at home and taken to the hospital after a 64-ounce bottle of ethanol-based hand sanitize was left on the kitchen table. The parents of the child say she ingested an unknown amount of the sanitizer and became dizzy, fell, and hit her head. Her blood alcohol level was 273 mg/dL (most state laws define a limit of 80 mg/dL for driving under the influence). The girl vomited during transport, was kept overnight in the hospital and was discharged after 48 hours.

Adults have been impacted by excessive cleaning as well. An adult woman was transported to the emergency room when she developed breathing problems after getting her groceries. She had filled her sink with a mixture of 10% bleach, vinegar, and water to soak her produce. She noticed a smell that she described as “chlorine” that made her cough and have trouble breathing. She was released from the ER after a few hours of observation and oxygen treatment.

Protect Yourself from Chemical and Disinfectant Issues

Calls regarding bleaches accounted for the largest percentage of calls to the poison control centers, followed by non-alcohol disinfectants and hand sanitizers. Many of the calls were associated with improper usage of the cleaners and disinfectants, such as using more than directed, mixing multiple chemicals together, not wearing protective gear, and applying in poorly ventilated areas.

To reduce improper use and prevent unnecessary exposures, those using cleaners and disinfectants should always follow the directions on the label, only use room temperature water for dilution, avoid mixing products, wear proper protection, use only in well ventilated areas, and store chemicals out of the reach of children.

Contact Us for Your FREE Disinfecting Treatment Quote

If your business needs disinfected, Fresh Foam offers disinfection treatments to a variety of businesses. We use the proper protective equipment, follow social distancing procedures, and use a microbial cleaner approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19.

However, understand that if it has been more than seven days since your building was exposed to anyone with coronavirus, per CDC recommendations, a disinfecting treatment is not necessary and routine cleaning procedures are adequate. At Fresh Foam, we understand that sometimes these treatments are necessary for the peace of mind of your staff and residents. Contact us today to find out what options would be the best for your facility.

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