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Coronavirus: Calls about exposure to household cleaners up 60 per cent in B.C.

In this March 12, 2020, file photo, customers shop for cleaning products as market employees restock shelves.
In this March 12, 2020, file photo, customers shop for cleaning products as market employees restock shelves. Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times via the Associated Press

While British Columbians are staying home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) says it has seen a 60 per cent spike in calls related to exposures to household cleaners and disinfectants.

For example, in a typical week, the Drug & Poison Information Centre at the BCCDC receives nine calls related to adults’ exposure to bleach.

From March 8 to April 11, the average was 24 calls per week.

Cleaning your home can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, but the BCCDC wants to remind residents to take proper safety cautions.

The BCCDC said it has not seen any cases of serious injuries but improperly mixing cleaning chemicals can be fatal.

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“We’re glad to see the people of B.C. taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but please keep in mind that cleaners and disinfectants are powerful substances and need to be used safely,” Dr. Tom Kosatsky, the medical director of Environmental Health Services at BCCDC, said in a release.

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In a release, the BCCDC said callers have been exposed through using cleaners in excessive amounts, using chemicals that should be diluted but were not and mixing chemicals that should not be mixed.

Women have been more likely to call about exposures and the BCCDC said calls about bleach were particularly concerning because mixing bleach with vinegar, ammonia or rubbing alcohol can create toxic gases.

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The BCCDC wants to remind everyone to always follow all label directions, never mix chemicals and never use bleach or other disinfectants on food.

Instead, they advise rinsing fresh vegetables and fruits with clean, potable water.

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If cleaning a food surface with bleach, dilute the bleach with water or rinse the surface with water after cleaning.

If someone is exposed to a disinfectant or sanitizer call the local Poison Control Centre at 1-800-567-8911.