The makers of Lysol, the Washington State Emergency Management Division, and the Environmental Protection Agency all scrambled to do damage control after President Trump appeared to suggest injecting people with disinfectants could be a possible cure for COVID-19.
During last night’s White House press briefing, an official from the Department of Homeland Security said that they’re studying whether household cleaners like bleach and rubbing alcohol can kill the coronavirus on inanimate, non-living surfaces.
Trump, jumping back in, took it a step too far:
“And then I see disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute — one minute — and 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’d be interesting to check that. So, that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me,” Trump said.
Disinfectants are very good at killing microbes on surfaces outside of the body. But to be clear, they’re harsh chemicals: if you inject or ingest them, they’re far more likely to poison or kill you than they are to poison or kill the virus. Calls to poison hotlines around cleaners and disinfectants are already much higher than normal, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says appears to be related to coronavirus-related cleaning efforts.
The manufacturer of Lysol put out a statement this morning stressing that their products should not be used inside the human body. “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),” they said. The Environmental Protection Agency said last night that disinfectants shouldn’t be ingested, though they didn’t indicate what prompted the warning, and the Washington State Emergency Management Division tweeted that people should not inject them.
Please don't eat tide pods or inject yourself with any kind of disinfectant.— WA Emergency Management (@waEMD) April 23, 2020
If you do need help with #COVID19 issues, we have lots of resources at https://t.co/C4x8jjWL0x
Just don't make a bad situation worse.
The New York State Department of Health also put out a warning about cleaning products on Twitter, as did the US Consumer Product Safety Commission:
QUINN THE QUARANTINE FOX: Cleaning products are poisonous, America! Make sure you keep those cleaning products in their original bottles and locked up out of sight and out of reach of kids! pic.twitter.com/yKdZAfO2Rz— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) April 24, 2020
The White House Press Secretary said in a statement today that President Trump’s statements were taken out of context. “President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment,” the statement read.
At the same briefing Trump also suggested using sunlight to cure the virus. “Supposing you brought the light inside the body, either through the skin, or some other way?” he said. This was not as great a safety concern for the public health community as ultraviolet ammunition remains entirely fictional, and ultraviolet blood radiation was most popular in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The toxicity of cleaning products, in contrast, is a present danger.
People around the country and the world take the things Trump says seriously, sometimes with deadly consequences. A man died in Arizona after ingesting a product used to clean fish tanks, which has the same ingredient as the anti-malaria drug Trump spent weeks promoting as a COVID-19 cure all during press briefings. His wife, who also took the drug and was hospitalized, said they assumed the fish product was the same as the medical drug.
“Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” she told NBC News.
One group, though, was happy to hear that Trump is advocating for the internal use of disinfectants: people who push Miracle Mineral Solution, which is made of highly toxic bleach, as a cure-all.
The Food and Drug Administration warned that the the solution is toxic and dangerous in a 2019 statement. “Sodium chlorite products are dangerous, and you and your family should not use them.”