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R Gharpure, CM Hunter, AH Schnall, CE Barrett, AE Kirby, J Kunz, K Berling, JW Mercante, JL Murphy and AG Garcia-Williams
Abstract
A recent report described a sharp increase in calls to poison centers related to exposures to cleaners and disinfectants since the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic (1). However, data describing cleaning and disinfection practices within household settings in the United States are limited, particularly concerning those practices intended to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. To provide contextual and behavioral insight into the reported increase in poison center calls and to inform timely and relevant prevention strategies, an opt-in Internet panel survey of 502 U.S. adults was conducted in May 2020 to characterize knowledge and practices regarding household cleaning and disinfection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowledge gaps were identified in several areas, including safe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of recommended personal protective equipment when using cleaners and disinfectants, and safe storage of hand sanitizers, cleaners, and disinfectants. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported engaging in nonrecommended high-risk practices with the intent of preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, such as washing food products with bleach, applying household cleaning or disinfectant products to bare skin, and intentionally inhaling or ingesting these products. Respondents who engaged in high-risk practices more frequently reported an adverse health effect that they believed was a result of using cleaners or disinfectants than did those who did not report engaging in these practices. Public messaging should continue to emphasize evidence-based, safe practices such as hand hygiene and recommended cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in household settings (2). Messaging should also emphasize avoidance of high-risk practices such as unsafe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of bleach on food products, application of household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhalation or ingestion of cleaners and disinfectants.
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