Covid-19: Americans drinking bleach and washing food with disinfectants, CDC finds

Americans have been drinking bleach and using chemical cleaning products to wash their food in a misguided attempt to prevent coronavirus infection, according to a recent survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In April, US President Donald Trump caused controversy by appearing to suggest that Americans should inject themselves with disinfectant to protect from coronavirus, comments that he says were misrepresented.

According to the CDC survey, it appears other Americans have had similar ideas – with the organization’s survey showing 60 per cent have begun cleaning their homes more often and participating in dangerous uses of bleach and other toxic disinfectant products.

The CDC surveyed 502 adults in the US for a range of activities involving disinfectants following a sharp increase in calls to poison centres related to exposures to cleaners and disinfectants since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report showed that 39 per cent of respondents had intentionally engaged in “at least one high-risk practice not recommended by CDC for prevention of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”

The high-risk practices listed by the CDC included:
• applying bleach to food items (e.g. fruits and vegetables) (19 per cent)
• using household cleaning and disinfectant products on hands or skin (18 per cent);
• misting the body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray (10 per cent);
• inhaling vapours from household cleaners or disinfectants (6 per cent);
• drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions (4 per cent), soapy water (4 per cent), and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions (4 per cent)

A quarter of respondents in the survey said that they had suffered at least one adverse health effect that they believe is due to use of cleaners and disinfectants, including nose, skin, eye irritations, dizziness, nausea, and breathing problems.

Those that reported engaging in a high-risk activity also reported adverse health effects much more frequently, 39 per cent versus 16 per cent, the report said.

“These practices pose a risk of severe tissue damage and corrosive injury and should be strictly avoided,” the CDC said.

“Although adverse health effects reported by respondents could not be attributed to their engaging in high-risk practices, the association between these high-risk practices and reported adverse health effects indicates a need for public messaging regarding safe and effective cleaning and disinfection practices aimed at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in households,” the agency added.