People are focused on disinfecting surfaces to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus. But, in their zeal to kill germs, they could inadvertently cause other health problems. For instance, mixing different cleaning products — particularly bleach and ammonia — can create toxic fumes. In addition, some disinfectants can irritate lungs, skin, and eyes, or trigger asthma.
To prevent health problems for you and your family while you clean and disinfect:
- Follow all label directions. Read the product warnings listed under “precautionary statements.”
- Only use the product on surfaces listed under “use sites.”
- Keep disinfectants out of reach of children.
- Never mix products together. Using bleach with other products may release dangerous gases.
- Ensure as much ventilation as possible.
The Minnesota Department of Health has additional information on its web site on the safe use of chemicals to combat COVID-19. For more information about cleaning and disinfecting in homes with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease, visit the CDC web site.
The MPCA has also received reports of household mercury spills that resulted from broken thermometers. Spilled mercury, even small quantities, should be cleaned up properly so that people don't come in contact with it or breathe its vapors. Some ordinary cleanup measures such as sweeping and vacuuming can actually increase the risks.
Mercury vapor is odorless, colorless, and very toxic. Even though liquid mercury evaporates slowly, a significant amount of mercury vapor can build up at room temperature after a spill — it can be dangerous to breathe these mercury vapors. Learn how to properly clean up spilled mercury on the Mercury in your home page.
Household items containing mercury should be taken to your county's household hazardous waste disposal site. It is unlawful to place them in ordinary household garbage.