Belgium sees ‘record’ poisonings with household cleaners, hand gel and essential oils
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Belgium sees ‘record’ poisonings with household cleaners, hand gel and essential oils

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Accidents with households disinfectants and chemical products have spiked in Belgium since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities warned on Monday.

The federal public health services (FPS Health) and the Belgian Poison Centre said that the lockdown and the push to disinfect hands and surfaces had led to a record number of accidents with household cleaning products, compared to the yearly average of around 10,000.

Intoxications or accidents with bleach or bleach-based products have doubled since March, with health and safety authorities registering a total of 1,024 incidents.

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As homes stocked up on hand sanitiser, accidents with the now-ubiquitous product have increased fivefold, totalling 1003, while accidents with other types of disinfectants have tripled to 565, since March compared to the yearly average.

Incidents involving essential oils also rose by a quarter, hitting 595, health authorities said in a press release, announcing the launch of a media campaign to raise awareness on the appropriate handling of these common products.

The campaign will urge parents and caretakers to always supervise children when using hand sanitisers, saying their strong alcohol concentration (around 70%) can often cause serious intoxication even in small quantities.

“Bleach is also the cause of several domestic accidents. You should never mix bleach or toilet disinfectant with other products, for example, because the association can release toxic fumes.”

As part of the awareness campaign, both agencies have launched a website (in French and Dutch) seeking to guide users in the use of these products, as they become an increasingly used item in our daily routines.

Their warning comes after the poison centre recorded a surge of intoxications with hand sanitisers in children in late July and coincide with a rise in poisonings after contact with or ingestion of cleaning products recorded elsewhere.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times