FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Clorox bleach are displayed for sale on the shelves of a Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas June 4, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi
(Reuters) – More than a third of Americans misused cleaners and disinfectants to try to prevent infection by the coronavirus, according to a survey taken shortly after President Donald Trump publicly asked whether injecting such products could treat COVID-19.
Washing food with bleach, using household cleaning or disinfectant products on bare skin, and intentionally inhaling or ingesting these products were some of the most commonly reported “high-risk” practices in a May 4 online survey of 502 U.S. adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.
The survey’s lead author said it was undertaken following a “sharp increase” in calls to poison control centers for exposure to cleaners and disinfectants during the pandemic.
In late April, Trump asked scientists during one of his coronavirus task force briefings whether inserting disinfectant into the bodies of people infected with the virus might help clear the disease, horrifying health experts. Makers of household cleaners were compelled to urge people not to drink or inject their products.
Some 39% of people surveyed reported intentionally engaging in at least one high-risk practice not recommended by the CDC to prevent coronavirus infection, including using bleach to clean food or misting the body with a disinfectant spray. Four percent drank or gargled with diluted bleach solutions, soapy water or disinfectants.
A quarter of those surveyed reported having at least one adverse health effect during the previous month that they believed resulted from using these products.
The CDC suggested that official COVID-19 prevention messages that currently focus on hand hygiene and frequent cleaning should also include instructions on proper usage of cleaners and disinfectants, and storing chemicals out of reach of children.
Limitations to the survey included that it was for a single point in time and was opt-in rather than a random sampling, the agency said.
Reporting by Vishwadha Chander and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Henderson, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler