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Accidental Poisonings On The Rise After Trump’s Disinfectant Musings

An April 23, during a press briefing including members of the coronavirus task force, Donald Trump made comments about disinfectants and their effects in destroying the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He postulated that “something like that” could be used to eliminate the virus inside lungs. Incidents immediately began to follow with individuals attempting to cure or prevent illness through misuse of disinfectants, and for the month of April, the number of accidental poisonings by disinfectant was more than double the number from the same time last year. Bleach incidents, too, nearly doubled.

trump dangerous coronavirus advice
[Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images]

There is a lot of debate over exactly what Trump said or recommended, and what he meant by it. The exact text from the official White House transcript follows:

And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it 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. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.

Trump’s remarks can also be heard in an official White House video:

Time notes that accidental poisoning cases by bleach and disinfectants were already on the rise this year, likely from the increased use of cleaning products in response to the pandemic. However, after Trump pondered the idea aloud, the increase became significantly more pronounced, more than doubling the number from the same month in 2019. Already, for the ten days recorded in May, the number of calls about accidental poisoning by disinfectant are nearly double the number for the same time period a year ago.

Forbes reported shortly after Trump’s comments that there had already been a spike in calls, with New York City’s Poison Control Center receiving more than twice the number of calls, in an 18-hour period following the press conference, than in the same period last year. Illinois’ Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike held a press conference two days after Trump’s comments, saying that the spike in calls in his state had included an individual who had mixed bleach with mouthwash in an attempt to kill the virus, and another who had used detergent as a sinus rinse.

Now, nearly three weeks later, the data still shows increased poisonings from the same time last year.

Trump tweeted on the Saturday following his controversial comments to issue a denial, but he didn’t deny the content of his statement, only arguing that he had directed them to a lab director, not to Dr. Birx, and complained that he’s asked ‘hostile’ questions that are then misreported.

As The Hill reported at the time, Trump then halted press briefings on the pandemic, following his complaints about how he is quoted in news media, but the hiatus was brief, with a return to his press audience on April 27.

Multiple agencies, health organizations, and companies that make disinfectant products, have released statements asking consumers not to try to use bleach or other cleaning products to treat themselves or prevent infection. Still, calls to Poison Control Centers are still high. Effective treatments for COVID-19 are still being researched, and in the meantime, anyone who fears they’ve been infected should contact their doctor or local health department.



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