Poison Control: don’t drink bleach or mix household cleaners

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Rocky Mountain Poison Center has seen up to a 20 percent increase in calls related to household cleaners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a study by Consumer Brands Association, 71 percent of Americans are concerned about access to household cleaning supplies. As a result of empty shelves in the cleaning supplies aisles, RMPC says more people are mixing chemicals to attempt homemade cleaners. 

“If you actually read the label on the chemicals, if people follow the instructions on the label, nowhere does it say you should mix those chemicals together,” Dr. Chris Hoyte, medical director at Rocky Mountain Poison Center, told FOX31. 

In fact, mixing certain common household chemicals can have toxic results. 

“One of the more common ones is we get called about people mixing bleach together with ammonia. It gives off a gas called chloramine gas and it can be really irritating to your eyes, to your noes and your throat,” Hoyte said. 

Chloramine gas can also cause difficulty breathing. In some cases, people may need to go to the hospital. 

Another toxic combination is bleach and rubbing alcohol. It creates chloroform, which is the chemical often depicted in movies on a rag covering someone’s mouth and nose to cause them to lose consciousness. 

“We haven’t gotten that call commonly but if you read about it, theoretically speaking, it makes chloroform. And chloroform, systemically if it gets inside your system, can cause a lot of issues with your nervous system,” Hoyte said. 

Vinegar is often used as an at-home cleaning remedy. However, when mixed with bleach it creates toxic chlorine gas fumes. 

“A lot of time people will do it in bathrooms. And bathrooms are enclosed spaces and so…The gas builds up in the bathroom and it’s concentrated because the area is small and then people start to get symptoms,” Hoyte said. 

Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar makes parecetic acid, which is corrosive and toxic. 

In addition to accidental poisonings from mixing chemicals, poison control is getting more calls about people intentionally ingesting chemicals to try to keep from getting COVID-19.

“People are calling with questions about doing things like ingesting bleach and other cleaners because they think that this might either protect them from getting the coronavirus or if they have it could it treat the coronavirus,” Hoyte said. 

Ingesting chemicals can cause serious health issues. 

“That’s something we highly, highly, highly recommend against,” Hoyte said. “It doesn’t work. There’s no upside to it. There’s only a downside, which is, it can be harmful.”

RMPC is also reminding families to keep household chemicals locked up at all times when not in use to avoid children from accidentally ingesting them. 

“Remember that little kids are home from school and if you leave those cleaning products out because you’re cleaning more frequently, there’s a risk that a kid could get into it,” Hoyte said. 

While household chemicals are a huge concern for poison control, RMPC says it is receiving more calls for chloroquine phosphate poisoning. 

“We’ve had those calls. Those are going up. And those actually scare us a lot because if you’re not doing that in conjunction with your physician, those can end up very poorly,” Hoyte said. 

An Arizona man died last month after ingesting a form of the substance used to clean fish tanks. He reportedly took the tablets to self-medicate for COVID-19. 

“I wouldn’t just read something on the internet and go try to buy that to use that. I would 100 percent talk to my doctor,” Hoyte said. 

Additionally, he is reminding people to continue taking prescription medications as directed. Some people have been sickened after taking multiple doses to try to stay healthy amid the outbreak. 

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