British Columbia

Mixing cleaning chemicals can be fatal, warns BCCDC following spike in cleaning product exposure calls

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is reminding the public to take care when using household cleaners and disinfectants following a noticeable spike in calls about cleaning product exposures in the wake of COVID-19.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says the increase in calls is from adults over the age of 20

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is warning adults to stay safe by not mixing cleaning agents. (Getty Images)

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is reminding the public to be extra cautious when using household cleaners and disinfectants, following a noticeable spike in calls relating to disinfectant exposures in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic measures.

In a statement issued Thursday, poison control officials said they have noticed a 60 per cent spike in calls related to the increased use of household cleaners and disinfectants among adults over the age of 20.

"Fortunately, we haven't seen any serious injuries but ingesting or improperly mixing cleaning chemicals can be fatal," said Dr. Tom Kosatsky, the medical director of Environmental Health Services at BCCDC.

According to the centre's latest numbers, following media reports of the first COVID-19 related death in a long-term care home in early March, the number of calls began to climb.

At its peak on March 22, there were more than 65 disinfectant-exposure related calls, with an average of 24 calls per week between March 8 and April 11.  The centre said a typical week would see just nine calls related to adult exposure to bleach. 

The centre said the increase in calls about bleach are of particular concern because mixing the disinfectant with vinegar, ammonia or rubbing alcohol can create gases which are toxic if inhaled.

"We're glad to see the people of B.C. taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but please keep in mind that cleaners and disinfectants are powerful substances and need to be used safely," said Kosatsky.

The centre also said women have been more likely to call about exposures to cleaning products and disinfectants than men.

For tips on how to use cleaning products safely, the centre suggests never using bleach or other disinfectants on food, avoid mixing chemicals together and follow all label instructions.