Wash your hands frequently, wear a face mask, keep your distance from others, don't touch your face. Those are some pieces of advice the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given Americans to stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. Something dangerous that has not been recommended? Ingesting bleach. Yet, it's happened as a new report from the CDC found that some people have been washing their food with bleach and even gargled with it in an effort to protect themselves against COVID-19.
The CDC is cautioning Americans and urging them to use household cleaning safely after finding that "calls to poison centers regarding exposures to cleaners and disinfectants have increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic." This week, the CDC shared results from a survey taken at the beginning of May that included 502 adults across the country who were asked questions regarding household cleaning and disinfection during COVID-19.
According to the survey, a whopping 39% of respondents said they had used bleach as a method of cleaning and disinfecting food products to stop the spread of the coronavirus, despite the fact that medical experts have cautioned against it. In fact, the CDC refers to using bleach as a food cleaner as being "high-risk" and recommends against it. Meanwhile, 18% reported using of household cleaning and disinfectant products on their hands or skin while 4% reported "drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions."
The CDC does not recommend ingesting bleach. Instead, the public health agency recommends disinfecting surfaces with properly diluted household bleach if appropriate to that particular surface. Gloves and a mask are also recommended. Only about five tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room temperature water is recommended for cleaning surfaces.
As bleach flew off store shelves at the height of the pandemic, Clorox also noted in a safety message on its website that "bleach and other disinfectants are not suitable for consumption or injection under any circumstances."
In April, President Donald Trump drew massive criticism for suggesting that ingesting disinfectants might stop the spread of the coronavirus during a news conference, as the BBC reported at the time. "And then 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?" the president said during a press conference. "Because you see it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it’d be interesting to check that. So that you’re going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds — it sounds interesting to me."
Following the comment, Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert, told CNBC that "this notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous."
The CDC noted in its recent report that the survey's findings "identified important knowledge gaps in the safe use of cleaners and disinfectants among U.S. adults" and stressed that "COVID-19 prevention messages should continue to emphasize evidence-based."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.