People have been amping up their use of cleansers and disinfectants in their homes to guard against the novel coronavirus. But 39% of U.S. adults are doing so in risky ways, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 20% say they have washed fruits and vegetables with bleach or used household cleansers or disinfectants on their hands.
Other reported risky practices included misting the body with a household cleaning or disinfectant spray and drinking or gargling with bleach solutions, soapy water or other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.
Based on survey data from a panel of 502 adults, determined to be a representative sampling of the U.S. population, the CDC says that people who used at least one of these unsafe practices were more than twice as likely to have a subsequent health issue – irritation of the nose, sinuses, skin or eyes, nausea or an upset stomach, dizziness, headaches or breathing problems – than were those who did none of these things (39% vs. 16%).
The CDC says that calls to poison centers from January, just before covid-19 began to spread, through March about exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants increased 20% compared with the same period last year.
Although the agency says that “transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through objects and surfaces,” hence the importance of social distancing and wearing masks, studies have found that the virus can remain viable for hours or days on surfaces.
For that reason, health experts recommend disinfecting frequently touched surfaces where covid-19 transmission is a risk. People should wear disposable gloves and possibly eye protection, use no more than the amount recommended on a product’s label and avoid mixing chemical products. Health experts also say never eat, drink, breathe or inject a household cleanser or disinfectant into your body or apply it on your skin.