Increase in Calls to Georgia Poison Center

Calls to the Georgia Poison Center have risen during the pandemic, with a spike in people reporting illnesses related to cleaning products and disinfectants.

Those increases have occurred nationally, with poison centers seeing up to a 20 percent rise in exposure calls related to cleaning and disinfecting products, often from inhalation.

It has been a bizarre week related to disinfectants, capped by controversy over President Trump’s remarks about them Thursday at a White House briefing, where he speculated on their use for virus treatment.

The biggest source of poisoning calls in Georgia now is from ingestion of pain medicines by children, said Gaylord Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center. But the reports of unhealthy exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants have doubled from the same period a year ago, he said Friday.

Poisoning calls in general have risen 9 percent in Georgia from last year amid the COVID-19 crisis, Lopez said.

The CDC issued a brief Monday about the poisoning increase, saying that the daily number of calls to poison centers on chemical exposures related to cleaners and disinfectants had jumped 20 percent. The data do not a show definite link between exposures and COVID-19 cleaning efforts, the CDC said. But the Atlanta-based agency also reported that “there appears to be a clear temporal association with increased use of these products.’’ A large percentage of the calls involved children.

News reports around the country have noted a surge in purchases of household cleaners and disinfectants since the pandemic began, with some store shelves stripped bare, though such panic buying has eased recently.

Lopez said many poisoning calls in Georgia have stemmed from improper mixing of chemicals – “people taking bleach and Lysol to clean hard surfaces.’’

“People could be looking for a stronger cleaning method,’’ he said, adding that the increase could indirectly reflect the limited availability of cleaning supplies in stores. Warning labels on cleaning products include the dangers of misusing them.