By Saarang Kashyap
As coronavirus cases accumulate in the U.S., President Donald Trump has advocated for the use of disinfectants as a potential treatment for this deadly disease. This proposal was made shortly after Bill Bryan, a senior official at the US Department of Homeland Security, stated that studies demonstrate bleach’s ability to kill coronavirus in around 5 minutes. Trump subsequently commented in a White House briefing, “Then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets on the lungs and does a tremendous number on the lungs.” Trump has since claimed that his remarks were mentioned in a sarcastic manner, but the message itself resonated with many Americans.
While this solution may seem beneficial on the surface, many scientists and health officials have strongly warned against the use of disinfectants to treat the novel coronavirus. “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible, and it’s dangerous,” said Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert who is an NBC News and MSNBC contributor. Among the voices warning strongly against ingesting disinfectant is the Environmental Protection Agency, part of Trump’s own administration. NPR states that in guidance issued Thursday, the EPA outlined what constitutes safe and effective use of disinfectants to combat the spread of the virus, along with this firm reminder: “Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products.”
In addition to disinfectant use, the possibility of using UV Light to combat coronavirus was also hinted at the White House Briefing. In response, the World Health Organization communicates that UV light lamps “should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin”.
So why are the ingestion of disinfectants and the exposure to UV light harmful?
Many disinfectants, such as household bleach, can cause severe internal organ damage and lung failure due to toxic vapors. UV light is known to be damaging to the skin and plays a key role in many skin cancers. To inform the public on the dangers of using these “treatments”, organizations such as the USDA, CDC, and the EPA have issued warnings and information regarding certain disinfectants/chemicals. They all communicate the same message: UV Light and disinfectants are great on surfaces, but dangerous if ingested.