The lesson here is that when you are the most powerful person in the world, people do listen. Or in some cases, they listen without thinking. Thursday night, during his coronavirus COVID-19 briefing, President Trump offered advice to medical professionals suggesting they consider injecting disinfectants to quell the virus. Since then, poison control centers in a number of states have reported a rise in calls about exposure to household cleaners.
“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it,” Trump said then. “And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting.”
“I see the 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?” he asked at the briefing.
Although companies such as RB (the maker of Lysol), Clorox, the FDA and American Cleaner Association, tweeted out statements pleading with the public not to ingest or inject potentially poisonous household cleaners, they did.
The Hill reports that New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene saw a rise in calls specifically pertaining to exposure to household cleaners within 18 hours of Trump’s remarks on Thursday.
Pedro F. Frisneda, a spokesperson for the office, told NPR, who first reported it, that the center had received nine cases during that window that were “specifically about exposure to Lysol, 10 cases specifically about bleach and 11 cases about exposures to other household cleaners.”
The cases are more than double the amount the center received during the same period last year, according to NPR.
In Illinois, Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also issued a similar warning to residents in the state in the wake of Trump’s remarks during a briefing on Friday.
“There has been a significant increase in calls to the Illinois Poison Control Center in association with exposure to cleaning agents (since Thursday),” Ezike said at the briefing, according to NBC Chicago.
Ezike said a person even recently tried to gargle mouthwash mixed with bleach, the news outlet reported.
“Injecting, ingesting, or snorting household cleaners is dangerous. It is not advised, and it can be deadly,” she added.
According to WTTW, the center believes that 36.5% increase is associated with people taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In a video message posted on Twitter that same day, NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot urged residents against ingesting disinfectants as a possible treatment against COVID-19.
“Very clearly, disinfectants are not intended for ingestion either by mouth, by ears, by breathing them in — in any way, shape or form. And doing so can put people at great risk,” she said in the clip.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) also said on Sunday that emergency hotlines in their states recorded an increase in calls from people looking for guidance since Trump’s controversial remarks.
“We have seen an increase in numbers of people calling poison control and so I think it’s really important that every one of us with a platform disseminate medically accurate information,” Whitmer said.
“I want to say, unequivocally no one should be using disinfectant — to digest it to fight COVID-19,” she continued. “Please don’t do it. Just don’t do it.”
Hogan said his state recorded “hundreds of calls come into our emergency hotline at our health department asking if it was right to ingest Clorox or alcohol cleaning products – whether that was going to help them fight the virus.”
Trump continues to face backlash over his comments. He has tried to walk them back, saying that he was being sarcastic.
“I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question — to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside,” he continued. “But it does kill it, and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters.”
The President cut his briefing short on Friday, not taking any questions or allowing medical experts to speak. He then proceeded to go on a Twitter tirade Saturday against the Democrats.
WTTW, The Hill, NBC Chicago and NPR contributed to this article.