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North Texas Poison Center Warns Against Dangers Of Bleach After Reports Of Ingestion, Overexposure

A row of bottles of Clorox bleach on a store shelf.
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The North Texas Poison Control center is seeing an increase in bleach ingestion or overexposure reports among people 30 or older. Usually the bulk of these reports involve children 5 years old or younger.

The North Texas Poison Center's received regional reports of at least 46 cases of ingestion or overexposure to bleach since Aug. 1. A few involved attempts to avoid or stop COVID-19.

The numbers were similar to the same time period a year ago. However, Cristina Holloway, Public Health Education Manager for the center, said there were shifts in the ages involved.

"It was a lot more in the five-and-under category, and then this year, we're seeing a little bit more of those calls occurring in the 30 years or older category," Holloway said.

Holloway added that there was an overall increase in bleach-related calls earlier during the pandemic, around March.

"We can't assume that all of these exposures were intentional or were with the thought to prevent or treat COVID, but we do know that we have received such calls" she said. "Perhaps they heard it from a friend or community member, or perhaps online. There's a lot of misinformation swirling around, so people can fall victim to that."

Holloway shared more about the health problems ingesting bleach and other household products can cause, and gives advice on what to do when someone is overexposed.

Interview Highlights

Dangers Of Consuming Bleach

The most frequent types of concerns that we see when it comes to bleach products are burning or irritation of the skin, the nose and the eyes. And, it can of course induce vomiting, so it can make the person throw up. Then it can cause more serious issues like respiratory problems, heart issues and also liver issues.

Are Other Household Cleaners As Dangerous?

Apart from bleach, one of the poison center's biggest concerns is the mixing of cleaners. If we mix ammonia and bleach, that can create a dangerous gas. There are so many different cleaners that when mixed together can create dangerous gases that are even potentially more concerning than someone ingesting bleach.

What To Do When Someone Ingests Or Is Exposed To Bleach

Go ahead and give the poison helpline a call. The number-one rule when it comes to poisoning, especially for ingestions, is we don't want to induce vomiting. Products like bleach can be corrosive, can actually burn and do damage. When that comes back up through the throat, it can actually cause more harm than good.

RESOURCES:

CDC: Some Americans are misusing cleaning products — including drinking them — in effort to kill coronavirus

Does Your Cleaner Kill COVID-19? Check This EPA List

Interview highlights were lighted edited for clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at sbaker@kera.org. You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

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