Cleaning Product Safety: Preventing Accidental Poisoning at Home
Cleaning is an important part of staying safe, but you need to stay safe while cleaning, too.
Cleaning in the time of COVID-19 is a whole new experience. Never have we ever disinfected, wiped down, and washed everything so often. While this may be a new routine that allows you to flex your cleaning muscles, it is important to make sure your cleaning is safe cleaning. Recently, a U.S. woman was hospitalized after trying to wash produce in a mix of bleach, vinegar, and water, only to experience difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing from the noxious chemical reaction.
Here, we’ll cover cleaning product safety to make sure being spic and span doesn’t make you sick.
What is the issue?
Health Canada has reported increased exposure to “cleaning products, bleaches, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and chlorine and chloramine gases.” Exposure is up a combined 58% in February and March when compared to the same time in 2019. Canadians are spending more time at home with their children, and are using cleaning products more often. Well-founded concerns about COVID-19 have created a need for clean, leading people to try their best to DIY a cleaning solution, or maximize their cleaners’ effectiveness – unfortunately, only to harm themselves.
Know your products
To avoid accidental poisonings, follow the specific instructions on the bottle or packaging of all cleaning products. Learn the critical information: what the cleaning agent is meant to do, where it can be used, and what’s in it. Before adding anything to a product, clearly understand whether you should (and how to) dilute it.
Trying to increase the effectiveness of your cleaning products through the addition of other chemicals such as bleach or vinegar, can be a scary mistake. Depending on the product, the effects can be adverse – the combination of solvents, like bleach and vinegar, actually create a toxic gas. Know that cleaning products can be dangerous even when used as directed. Experts recommend using cleaning products in a well-ventilated room, and using gloves to protect your skin.
Finally, a note on natural cleaning products: while the” natural” label may give you peace of mind, you still need to follow instructions as listed on the package. Cleaning products listed as “natural” can still be toxic and should be treated with caution, just like any other conventional cleaning product.
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While it may be tempting to store cleaners in convenient places – like under the sink – protect your household by storing cleaning products in safe and secure areas. If your house does have young children, keep in mind that some cleaners (like laundry detergent pods) and medications can look like candy to little ones. Decanting detergents into glass jars or canisters can also lead to a case of mistaken identity for children.
It’s best to keep cleaning products in their original packaging, safely stored out of reach from kids. This also retains the brand name, ingredients, and first aid information for the cleaning agent – information that can be critical in an emergency, helping the hospital or poison center formulate an effective treatment plan.
Make sure all of your products are accounted for. Hand sanitizer may be more common in your household these days, and it’s important to keep it safe and secure just like any other cleaning product. Reports from poison centres indicate children have been drinking sanitizer, confusing the fruity scents and fun packaging with juice. A preschool-aged child in the United States was hospitalized after drinking hand sanitizer – her legal blood alcohol content was found to be three times the legal limit for adults.
Emergencies can happen
It is important to be prepared in case of an emergency. Household cleaners are incredibly powerful, and may cause symptoms if inhaled, ingested, get into eyes or onto skin. Your local poison centre can offer first aid options over the phone, but recommend calling 911 “if the victim is unconscious, not breathing or having a seizure.”
Thinking clearly in an emergency can be difficult, so ease the stress and print out a first aid guide to poisonings now, just in case you ever need it. Post it in a spot near your cleaning supplies, and make the family aware of it. Prevention is always the best way to keep your family safe and sound.