Worker Health and Wellness Home and Community Safety & Health Federal agencies Research/studies

People using household cleaners, disinfectants in unsafe ways during pandemic, survey finds

Reprints
cleaning-products.jpg
Photo: Floortje/iStockphoto

Washington — Washing foods with bleach, applying household cleaning or disinfectant products to the hands or skin, and intentionally inhaling or ingesting these products are among the “non-recommended, high-risk practices” nearly 2 out of 5 U.S. adults say they have tried to prevent contracting COVID-19, results of a recent survey indicate.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the agency’s COVID-19 response team, looked at data from an online survey of a nationally representative cohort of 502 U.S. adults. The survey – conducted May 4 – included questions about general knowledge, attitudes and practices related to the use of household cleaners and disinfectants, as well as about specific information regarding cleaning and disinfection strategies for preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

Among the 39% of the respondents who reported they had engaged in these high-risk, unsafe behaviors within the past month:

  • 19% applied bleach to food items, including fruits and vegetables.
  • 18% used household cleaning and disinfecting products on their hands or skin.
  • 10% misted their body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray.
  • 6% inhaled vapors from household cleaners or disinfectants.
  • 4% had drank or gargled diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, or other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.

Overall, 77% of the respondents didn’t know they should use only room-temperature water to dilute bleach solutions, and 65% were unaware that they shouldn’t mix bleach with vinegar.

One-quarter of the respondents reported experiencing at least one adverse health effect, which they believed resulted from the use of disinfectants or cleaners.

 

“COVID-19 prevention messages should continue to emphasize evidence-based, safe practices such as frequent hand hygiene and frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces,” the researchers said. “These messages should include specific recommendations for the safe use of cleaners and disinfectants, including the importance of reading and following label instructions.”

The survey results were published online June 5 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)