Canadians Are Accidentally Poisoning Themselves While COVID-19 Cleaning

Poisonings involving bleach are the most common.
Canadians Are Accidentally Poisoning Themselves While COVID-19 Cleaning
Senior Editor

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians have been trying extra-hard to clean their homes. However, recent statistics from Health Canada suggest there’s been a concerning rise in accidental poisonings, and cleaning products are to blame. There’s even reports of children drinking hand sanitizer!

If you’ve found yourself desperately trying to disinfect all of your surfaces and groceries, you’re apparently not the only one.

According to new statistics from Health Canada, obtained by CBC News, more and more Canadians are accidentally poisoning themselves, and home cleaners are likely to be the cause.

The public health agency reports that during February and March this year, there was a 58% increase in reported exposures. The majority were related to cleaning products, bleaches, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, chlorine and chloramine gases. 

Worryingly, poisonings involving bleach were by far the most common, as 38% of all reports in March involved the dangerous chemical.

Examples of such poisonings include a woman who accidentally created potentially deadly gases by mixing cleaning products, and a child who drank a dangerous amount of an ethanol-based hand sanitizer. 

Health Canada suspects that this increase in accidental poisonings is due to a number of factors, all related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In particular, the agency suggests Canadians are likely to have more cleaning products at home right now, because they stocked up at the beginning of Canada’s lockdown.

Additionally, people are cleaning their homes more often and more thoroughly, meaning they have increased exposure to the chemicals.

Finally, Canadians are spending an increased amount of time inside the house, meaning that more incidents involving household products are bound to occur.

One of the most common mistakes people make, a former Toronto health inspector told CBC News, is mixing certain cleaning products together.

Dr. Jim Chan explained that mixing bleach with vinegar, or with a cleaning product that has ammonia in it, produces potentially deadly gases. Some wipes used to clean surfaces also have ammonia in them, he added, so it’s important to read all labels carefully. 

In the past, Ottawa Public Health has also made it clear that there’s no evidence that you can get COVID-19 from groceries, so cleaning them with sanitizer, soap or bleach is not necessary. In fact, it could be dangerous.

Instead, the local health agency suggests that produce should be cleaned with water, and water only.

In a recent tweet, Health Canada urged anybody who suspects they have been poisoned by a cleaning product to call their local poison control centre immediately.

*This article's cover image is for illustrative purposes only.

Helena Hanson
Senior Editor
Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Media, leading the Travel and Money teams. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.