President Donald Trump recently asked his coronavirus task force about possibly injecting patients with disinfectant to treat COVID-19

By Claudia Harmata
April 26, 2020 08:00 PM
Advertisement
Cleaning Products
Credit: Getty Images

States across the country are seeing a spike in poison control calls following President Donald Trump's comments about injecting coronavirus patients with disinfectant to kill the respiratory illness.

According to Mike Ricci, the communications director for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the state's Emergency Management Agency saw a surge of over 100 calls inquiring about the president's remarks last week, when he mused about the possibility that disinfectant could be a coronavirus treatment.

Due to the influx of calls, the agency issued an alert to remind residents that “under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.”

Similarly, New York City saw an increase in "cases of exposure to Lysol, bleach & other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion," reporter Anna Sanders shared on Twitter, who said the N.Y.C. Poison Control Center saw 30 cases dealing with household cleaners, disinfectants and bleach.

"That’s more than double during same period in 2019, per health dept," Sanders wrote. "Thankfully no hospitalizations or deaths."

Meanwhile, the Illinois Poison Center has had two specific calls following Trump's comments, Danny Chun, a communications and marketing employee at the center, told Fox News. However, he said the state saw a 36 percent increase in calls in March concerning "inappropriate use of disinfectants and cleansers."

“A 36 percent increase overall since March is a huge increase," he said. "People were doing this already.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a joint study with the American Association of Poison Control Centers that supports Chun.

"During January–March 2020, poison centers received 45,550 exposure calls related to cleaners (28,158) and disinfectants (17,392), representing overall increases of 20.4%," the agency said. "The daily number of calls to poison centers increased sharply at the beginning of March 2020 for exposures to both cleaners and disinfectants."

During a news briefing last week, Trump speculated whether treating patients with an ultraviolet light or injecting them with disinfectant was a viable treatment to rid people of the deadly virus.

“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute," he said. "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.”

His remarks came mid-briefing after William Bryan, the undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security, gave a presentation on an ongoing study that shows heat, humidity and sunlight might break down the novel coronavirus at a faster rate than when it lives in a colder environment.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing.

Bryan also said bleach and other disinfectants like isopropyl alcohol have been shown to kill the virus in saliva and other respiratory fluids — “with no manipulation, no rubbing, just spraying it on and letting it go. You rub it and it goes away even faster.”

After Trump's comments, Reckitt Benckiser, the makers of Lysol, put out a statement imploring people not to use their products as a treatment.

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the company said. “As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines.”

Disinfectants such as Lysol or bleach are toxic, and ingesting or injecting them can be fatal.

The American Chemistry Council also released a statement on Friday saying that chlorine bleach “should never be administered inside the body under any circumstances.”

“Chlorine bleach and other disinfectants should never be ingested or injected into the body to treat infections such as COVID-19. Such a practice could be lethal or cause serious bodily harm,” they said.

Trump’s comments also prompted responses from doctors, who urged against trying to treat COVID-19 with disinfectants.

“My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea,” Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told The Washington Post. “This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous.”

“This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous,” Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert, told NBC News. “It’s a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves.”

The White House has since responded to the controversy, claiming that Trump's comments were being taken “out of context."

“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said in a statement on Friday. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.