Accidental Adult Poisonings Increase During COVID-19 Pandemic

Pail of cleaning supplies

The Northern New England Poison Center reported that accidental adult poisonings in New Hampshire increased 59 percent from March 16 to April 14, 2020. One of the primary reasons for this increase is cleaning product exposure. Common methods that have been reported include inhaling of fumes, ingestion and, to a lesser degree, contact with skin. Spraying cleaning products on food and food packaging and then eating the contaminated food, as well as cleaning residue left on dishes and utensils, are other contributing factors to this increase in accidental adult poisonings.

While the extra attention to disinfecting, cleaning our hands and everything we touch is a positive way of protecting ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to make sure food and food products/packaging are not contaminated. The Northern New England Poison Center provides New Hampshire residents with poisoning resources and emergency phone help, and recommends the following:

  • Do not mix cleaning products unless the label tells you to.  Mixing chemicals can produce toxic fumes. For example, bleach and vinegar can make a chlorine gas.
  • Read the label carefully and follow the directions every time you use a product. For a cleaner, this can include how long to leave it on a surface, if you need to ventilate a room and whether it is harmful for children and pets.
  • Be extra aware of potential poisons in your home and keep them up high, out of reach of children and locked if possible. These include, but are not limited to, hand sanitizer, cleaning products and cosmetics. Even those who normally store these items safely may overlook doing so amid the changes brought on by the pandemic.
  • Put away items as soon as you are done using them.
  • Do not use disinfectant wipes designed to be used on hard surfaces to clean your hands. Although these products are made to be used without gloves, they may cause irritation on delicate skin such as an adult's face or child's skin. The primary method for cleaning hands should still be using soap and water and using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

Finally, keep an eye on children. As adult poisonings have increased, so have child exposures. More time at home means more time for a child to get into products while exploring.

For more information about other ways to keep you and your family safe, visit the Injury Prevention Center website at