Calls to poison control centers spike after Trump disinfectant comments

Poison control centers in a number of states have reported a rise in calls about exposure to household cleaners since President Trump made remarks suggesting that disinfectants should be looked into as a possible treatment for the coronavirus.

New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed to NPR that the poison control center saw a rise in calls specifically pertaining to exposure to household cleaners within 18 hours of Trump’s remarks on Thursday.

Department spokesman Pedro Frisneda told the outlet that the center had recorded nine cases during that window that were “specifically about exposure to Lysol, 10 cases specifically about bleach and 11 cases about exposures to other household cleaners.”

That is more than double the number of cases the center recorded during the same period last year, according to NPR.

The report comes as Trump continues to face backlash over comments he made at a White House briefing held by his coronavirus task force on Thursday. During the briefing, Trump suggested that light, heat and disinfectants be studied as potential treatments for the coronavirus.

“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it,” Trump said then. “And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting.” 

“I see the disinfectant — where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” he asked at the briefing.

Trump has since walked back his comments, saying on Friday that he was being sarcastic during the briefing.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” Trump said at the time.

“I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question — to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside,” he continued. “But it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.”

In a video message posted on Twitter that same day, NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot urged residents against ingesting disinfectants as a possible treatment against COVID-19.

“Very clearly, disinfectants are not intended for ingestion either by mouth, by ears, by breathing them in — in any way, shape or form. And doing so can put people at great risk,” she said in the clip.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike issued a similar warning to residents in the state in the wake of Trump’s remarks during a briefing on Friday. 

“There has been a significant increase in calls to the Illinois Poison Control Center in association with exposure to cleaning agents [since Thursday],” Ezike said at the briefing, according to NBC Chicago

Ezike said a person even recently tried to gargle mouthwash mixed with bleach, the news outlet reported.

“Injecting, ingesting or snorting household cleaners is dangerous. It is not advised, and it can be deadly,” she added.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) also said on Sunday that emergency hotlines in their states recorded an increase in calls from people looking for guidance since Trump’s controversial remarks.

“We have seen an increase in numbers of people calling poison control, and so I think it’s really important that every one of us with a platform disseminate medically accurate information,” Whitmer said. 

“I want to say, unequivocally no one should be using disinfectant, to digest it to fight COVID-19,” she continued. “Please don’t do it. Just don’t do it.”

Hogan said his state saw “hundreds of calls come into our emergency hotline at our health department asking if it was right to ingest Clorox or alcohol cleaning products, whether that was going to help them fight the virus.”

“So, we had to put out that warning to make sure that people were not doing something like that, which would kill people actually to do it,” he said Sunday, pointing to a recent warning issued by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency advising resident not to ingest disinfectants.

“The president’s got to focus on the message, stick to a message and make sure that these press conferences are fact-based,” he added.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump

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