Lockdown: poison centre records 15% increase in calls
Tuesday, 19 May 2020
Belgium’s poison control centre has seen an increase of 15% in the number of calls it receives since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.
For fear of the new coronavirus (Covid-19), many people have started experimenting with dangerous products, the poison control centre reports on its website.
“The consequences of the coronavirus crisis are making themselves known, according to our figures. Compared to the same period last year (April 2019) almost eight hundred more calls were handled,” said Patrick De Cock, communication coordinator of the centre, in a statement on the website. “An increase of no less than 15%. Such a sharp increase has never been measured before,” De Cock added.
“We always see an increase in the number of calls during holiday periods. But in coronavirus times, there’s another 15% to 20% on top of that, which is very significant,” said Dominique Vandijck, deputy director of the poison control centre.
Part of the explanation is that people are more likely to come into contact with hazardous substances because they are at home, according to Vandijck. “People are much more concerned with cleaning and hygiene. They clean more often, with stronger products, or combinations [of products]. That’s not always a good idea, because chemical vapours that can be very irritating can arise,” he added.
For personal hygiene, people go even further, the centre remarked. People call because they want to disinfect their hands with bleach, or methanol, or wash their bodies with essential oils. “These are all very dangerous products, which can cause serious burns or poisoning,” Vandijck said. In some cases, the centre has to refer callers to a doctor or hospital.
“We even got [calls from] people who had put bleach in their bathwater. To be able to disinfect their whole bodies, they said. For God’s sake. Don’t do that,” Vandijck said.
Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that injecting bleach could be a good idea against the coronavirus in April, the Belgian centre immediately noticed it in an increase of bleach-related calls.
“We did not hear about people injecting themselves with bleach, but they did start using it more and more often. It shows what far-reaching consequences it can have if such people make such statements,” Vandijck added.