The number of calls made in 2020 to the anti-poison centre reached a record high, largely as a result of the explosion in the use of hand sanitiser.
The centre received 65,322 calls, 7.6% more than in 2019 and an absolute record, deputy director Dominique Vandijck said. And Covid-19 played a large role, with many calls concerning hand sanitiser and other household cleaning products.
However only 14% of calls (9,216) concerned a request for information, while the vast majority (56,055) were to report exposure to a suspected dangerous substance.
The number of calls about household products rose more than the number of calls in general, with the coronavirus the main reason.
“People were cleaning a lot more and more often in the fight against the coronavirus,” Vandijck said.
“People bought large quantities of often highly concentrated household products. These were then poured into smaller containers such as water or soft drink bottles at home, leading some to drink them accidentally. Frequent cleaning resulted in frequent (skin) contact with the same products.”
Speaking of hand sanitisers alone, the number of calls increased fivefold – not surprising since the products were barely used at all by the general public before the pandemic, at which point they appeared in every public place, on sale in every shop, and not always of the most reliable quality.
“The necessity of using alcohol-based hand gels had a downside,” the centre said.
Contact with the eyes were a particular problem, especially as it can sometimes cause permanent damage. Nevertheless, the centre does not advocate stopping the use of the products. However, it is necessary to use the gels and household products carefully, especially with children.
“Always read the label carefully first. That can prevent many accidents,” the centre advises.