In their quest to prevent infections with the new coronavirus, some people use products for cleaning or disinfection tasks such as hypochlorite, ammonia, detergents, creolin, disinfectants and boric acid.
But, these substances, due to the misuse they are given or for not storing them properly at home, have become responsible for the increase in poisonings that have occurred throughout our country, according to the Institute. National Health, INS.
The departments and the city with the highest record of cases due to this situation are Guainía (6.7%), Amazonas (2.5%), Barranquilla (2.7%), Atlántico (2.6%), Nariño (2, 9%), Vaupés (2.2%), Sucre (2.9%), Risaralda (2.6%), Norte de Santander (2.3%) and Putumayo (2.4%). According to the INS, the number of poisonings by these substances is related to the departments with the highest number of cases of covid-19 infection.
Jorge Quiñónez, toxicologist at the Ministry of Health of Cali, explains that these poisonings occur “because it is very common for people to store the substance in a glass and people think it is water and drink it.”
Also, accidents can occur when mixing products that generate gases, or exposure to some substances in closed places for several hours.
For example, the mixture of sodium hypochlorite (chlorine) and ammonia dissolves easily and immediately irritates the mouth, nose and throat.
“Cases of accidents with cleaning products can occur due to poor storage, especially where there are children, who out of curiosity can try,” says Pilar Acosta, a medical specialist in clinical toxicology at the Subred Centro Oriente in Bogotá.
Last year, between January and July, 596 cases of hypochlorite poisoning, detergents, disinfectants, among others, were reported to the hotline of the Center for Safety Information on Chemical Products, Cisproquim.
In this first semester of the year the cases increased by 11.5%, which is equivalent to 665. Most were due to carelessness of people (increased by 14.76%: from 386 to 443 cases), due to attempted suicide ( reduced by 10%: from 136 it decreased to 122) and due to misuse it went from 29 to 52 cases (the increase was 79.3%).
The population group most affected by disinfection and cleaning substances were children between 3 and 6 years of age, with 43.21%. Children 12 years and older follow with 36.3%. And unlike the previous year, poisonings in older adults increased by 54%.
For this reason, the toxicologist Acosta advises “first, not to keep these substances in containers or in bottles where sodas, juices or other consumption liquid have been stored. Second, that they are not left within the reach of children, because they are a highly exposed population. Therefore, care should be taken to leave the substance indoors. And third, take precautionary measures when using these substances, such as the use of gloves or face masks ”.
On the other hand, the National Institute of Legal Medicine assures that in the first semester of the year there have been 26 deaths from methanol consumption, of which 24 were in Bogotá (between May and June).
Methanol is a colorless, volatile, and toxic liquid for human consumption, commonly used in the manufacture of vehicle or boat fuels, and in solvents to facilitate the production of dyes, dyes, or pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Jorge Quiñónez affirms that thanks to the fact that methanol is an easy and cheap liquid to obtain, and that it is obtained through the distillation of wood, it is often used for the adulteration of liquor.
In addition, Acosta explains that cases of methanol poisoning “usually occur as a suicide attempt, but in this quarantine season they have arisen because frequent liquor users, who often consume antiseptic alcohol mixed with Frutiño, for example, have seen decreased sale of antiseptic alcohol due to shortages secondary to the pandemic, so they take what they get and sometimes they get industrial alcohol (methanol). ” However, methanol poisoning can not only be caused by its intake, as it can be absorbed through the skin and the respiratory tract.
According to the INS, the evolution of the clinical picture of methanol poisoning is characterized in two periods: the latency period, which occurs for 8 to 24 hours in which the patient presents with pulsatile headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, motor incoordination and mild depression of the central nervous system.
The second period of metabolic acidosis is when patients between 12 to 30 hours present a wide variety of symptoms, among which headache, nausea, vomiting, colic-type abdominal pain, myalgia (muscle pain) and diarrhea in a lesser proportion stand out. In addition, they may present respiratory distress with tachypnea (rapid breathing), bradycardia (decrease in cardiac contraction to 60 beats per minute), hypotension (low blood pressure), nervous system disorders such as paresis (partial paralysis or weakening of contractility of the musculature) and seizures with a poor prognosis if they occur. And in the event that the affected person does not carry out the due treatment, he may present blindness, circulatory collapse, seizures, coma and death.
Therefore, the most opportune option, recommends the toxicologist Pilar Acosta, is “to transfer the patient to a medical center as soon as possible, because as some products are corrosive, measures such as causing vomiting (many people try it in cases of ingestion of methyl alcohol) can make burns worse. ”
For a few days, a video has been circulating on social networks, in which it is reported that leaving the packaging of an antibacterial gel inside a car can put people’s lives at risk, because if it is exposed to high temperatures it could generate a flammable atmosphere.
Carlos Alberto Hernández, from the Eastern Voluntary Fire Station of Cali, confirmed to El País that this can indeed happen, but there would have to be very specific conditions for the sun’s rays to focus on a magnifying glass effect and melt the plastic and then turn on the gas that the antibacterial has.
He states that there must be “conditions such as the angle of the sun with respect to the glass, also the height or position of the bottle inside the vehicle, the type of container that contains the gel and many other variables.”
So he recommends storing the antibacterial gel “in a place where it does not receive direct sunlight such as the glove compartment or in interior spaces such as the car door bag. Or better yet, keep it with one inside the briefcase, bag, etc ”.