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Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID Cleaning can Cause Catastrophes

In February of last year, I wrote a blog “Don’t Be Daft” that talked to the fact that you cannot dilute a concentrate formulation to get a contact time or claims list equivalent to a Ready-To-Use product.  The reason for this is because disinfectants are formulated in very specifically to meet the dilution rates, contact times or claims lists specified on their label. The long and the short of that blog was that formulating disinfectants should be left to the experts.

While many consumers may purchase and use various cleaning and disinfecting products at home, until COVID-19 hit, the need for widespread disinfection was not a topic of discussion. Most people had not contemplated social distancing, how far the droplets of our coughs, sneezes or even talking spread, and likely never thought of high touch surfaces they touched on a daily basis that had been touched by any number of people before them.

I’m thrilled that we are entering a new normal where these types of things will be at the forefront of our thoughts; however, we still need to exercise some common sense and understand that unless we are a chemist or chemical engineer, we should not be mixing chemicals together.

Case in point is a recently released study by the CDC that has correlated an increase in calls to the Poison Control Center to COVID-19 and the increased use in cleaning and disinfection chemicals.  According to the CDC, calls to U.S. Poison Control Centres have increased since COVID-19 landed in the US, with a sharp increase in March during the onslaught of lockdowns. Calls concerning exposures to chemicals and disinfectants increased by 20% from 2019 to 2020, with children five years old or younger making up most of the victims. Around two thirds of the calls were related to bleach, non-alcoholic disinfectants, and sanitizers.

The study provided two case studies. The following is taken directly and highlights the importance of why, if you do not have a degree in chemistry or chemical engineering, you should not try to concoct your own cleaning solution:

“An adult woman heard on the news to clean all recently purchased groceries before consuming them. She filled a sink with a mixture of 10% bleach solution, vinegar, and hot water, and soaked her produce. While cleaning her other groceries, she noted a noxious smell described as “chlorine” in her kitchen. She developed difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing, and called 911. She was transported to the emergency department (ED) via ambulance and was noted to have mild hypoxemia and end-expiratory wheezing.”

The second case highlights why we need to consider the safety profile of the products we bring home as well as how or where we store them:

“A preschool-aged child was found unresponsive at home and transported to the ED via ambulance. A 64-ounce bottle of ethanol-based hand sanitizer was found open on the kitchen table. According to her family, she became dizzy after ingesting an unknown amount, fell and hit her head. She vomited while being transported to the ED, where she was poorly responsive. Her blood alcohol level was elevated at 273 mg/dL (most state laws define a limit of 80 mg/dL for driving under the influence); neuroimaging did not indicate traumatic injuries.”

Although a causal association cannot be demonstrated, the timing of these reported exposures corresponded to increased media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of consumer shortages of cleaning and disinfection products, and the beginning of some local and state stay-at-home orders all correlate together nicely.

When it comes to using disinfectants, read the label, use the product as the manufacturer intended it to be used and do not mix things together.  The dilution rates and contact times are there for a reason.  Don’t be daft. 

Bugging Off!


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