A report published Friday by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that many Americans are taking part in dangerous behaviors to try and prevent COVID-19 infection -- including gargling bleach solutions.
To collect information for the report, researchers surveyed 502 people ranging in age from 18 to 86 in May.
Researchers found that nearly 40 percent of respondents said they engaged in high-risk behavior, such as spraying their bodies with disinfectant spray, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Other high-risk behavior included application of bleach to food like fruits and vegetables; using household cleaning and disinfectant products on hands or skin; inhaling household cleaner or disinfectant vapors; and drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.
"These practices pose a risk of severe tissue damage and corrosive injury and should be strictly avoided," the report said. "Although adverse health effects reported by respondents could not be attributed to their engaging in high-risk practices, the association between these high-risk practices and reported adverse health effects indicates a need for public messaging regarding safe and effective cleaning and disinfection practices aimed at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in households."
The respondents were from across the country, with 38% from the South, 24% from the West, 21% from the Midwest, and 18% from the Northeast, according to the CDC's report. Fifty-two percent of respondents were female. When broken down by race, 63% of respondents were non-Hispanic white, 16% were Hispanic (any race), 12% were non-Hispanic black, and 8% were multiracial or of other race/ethnicity.
The CDC recommends using disinfectants as intended, for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. It also says bleach should be used in a well-ventilated area. People should also take care to use protective equipment such as gloves when using cleaners. Bleach should never be mixed with vinegar or ammonia, and only room-temperature water should be used to dilute bleach. Doing so can cause “severe lung tissue damage.”