Significant variations of dangerous exposures during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: a possible association with the containment measures implemented to reduce the virus transmission.BMC Public Health. 2022 03 05; 22(1):441.BP
In response to the COVID-19 health emergency, mass media widely spread guidelines to stop the virus transmission, leading to an excessive and unaware use of detergents and disinfectants. In Italy and in other countries this tendency caused a significant increase of exposures to these products in 2020. Evaluating data collected by the Italian Pavia Poison Centre (PPC), this study intends to examine the relationship between the COVID-19 lockdown and the variations of exposures to specific product categories possibly associated to the containment measures implemented. Simultaneously, this work shows the effectiveness of the European Product Categorisation System (EuPCS) in surveillance activities of dangerous chemicals.
Exposure cases managed by the PPC during March-May 2020 (lockdown) and during the same months of 2017-2018-2019 were compared. Differences in categorical variables were tested with the Chi-square test. The level of significance was set at Alpha = .05. The study included all EuPCS groups but specifically focused on cleaners, detergents, biocides and cosmetics.
During the lockdown, calls from private citizens showed a highly significant increase (+ 11.5%, p < .001) and occupational exposures decreased (- 11.7%, p = .011). Among Cleaners, exposures to Bleaches slightly increased while Drain cleaning products went through a significant reduction (- 13.9%, p = .035). A highly significant increase of exposures to Disinfectants was observed (+ 7.7%, p = .007), particularly to those for surfaces (+ 6.8%, p = .039). Regarding Cosmetics, both handwashing soaps and gel products significantly increased (respectively: + 25.0, p = .016 and + 9.7%, p = .028). Among children 1-5 years, the statistical significance is reached with exposures to Dishwashing detergents (+ 13.1%, p = .032), handwashing soaps (+ 28.6%, p = .014) and handwashing gel products (+ 16.8%, p = .010). Contrarily, Liquid Laundry Detergent Capsules decreased in a highly significant manner (- 25%; p = .001). The general severity of exposures showed a highly significant decrease (Moderate: - 10.1%, p = .0002).
This study investigated the relationship between the COVID-19 lockdown and the variations of exposures to some product categories related to the containment measures. The results obtained support any action to be taken by Competent Authorities to implement measures for a safer use of cleaners/disinfectants. This paper shows the benefit in applying the EuPCS to categorize products according to their intended use, though an extension of this system to products not covered by CLP Regulation may be a further advantage.