Coronavirus pandemic

More New Yorkers ingesting disinfectant

Rise in numbers comes after Trump suggests fighting virus with UV light or cleaning liquids

Donald Trump has claimed his musings about using disinfectant to treat the novel coronavirus were "sarcastic," but some state and local health authorities say they are seeing an uptick in poisonings and warn the effects can be deadly.
People out shopping in New York last Saturday. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has registered an increase in calls of people exposing themselves to or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants
People out shopping in New York last Saturday. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has registered an increase in calls of people exposing themselves to or ingesting cleaners and disinfectantsPHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • The Poison Control Centre in New York City has seen a spike in the number of people ingesting household cleaners after US President Donald Trump raised the possibility of using disinfectant inside people's bodies to fight the coronavirus.

The non-profit National Public Radio (NPR) reported that the centre registered 30 cases in an 18-hour period ending at 3pm last Friday, as opposed to only 13 cases for the same timeframe a year ago.

Nine of the cases were related to exposure to Lysol, 10 were "specifically about bleach" and 11 were exposures to other household cleaners, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spokesman Pedro Frisneda told NPR.

At a news briefing last Thursday, the US leader stunned the world by saying doctors might treat people infected with the coronavirus by shining ultraviolet light inside their bodies, or with injections of household disinfectant.

"Then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks (the virus) out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs," he was quoted as saying by news outlets, including Agence France-Presse.

After a strong rebuff of his suggestion by top medical experts and disinfectant manufacturers, Mr Trump the next day claimed he had been speaking "sarcastically".

"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen," he told journalists on Friday.

On Saturday, Mr Trump tweeted that his daily coronavirus briefings were not worth his time.

He appeared to confirm media reports that he was considering halting the briefings, which dominate early-evening cable television news for sometimes more than two hours, out of frustration with questions about his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately," Mr Trump wrote.

  • 30 

    Number of cases reported in relation to exposure to Lysol in an 18-hour period ending at 3pm last Friday, as opposed to only 13 cases for the same timeframe a year ago.

    20% 

    Increase in the percentage of cases of exposure to disinfectants and cleaners between January and March this year, as opposed to the same period last year.

The NPR also reported that the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has registered an increase in calls of people exposing themselves to or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants.

According to a CDC report posted online, the cases of exposure to disinfectants and cleaners have increased by 20 per cent between January and March this year, as opposed to the same period last year.

The report said the uptick in calls began in early March, although it warned that it could not prove a "definite link between exposures and Covid-19 cleaning efforts".

"Although a casual association cannot be demonstrated, the timing of these reported exposures corresponded to increased media coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic, reports of consumer shortages of cleaning and disinfection products, and the beginning of some local and state stay-at-home orders," the report added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2020, with the headline 'More New Yorkers ingesting disinfectant'. Subscribe