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Canadians are accidentally poisoning themselves while cleaning to prevent COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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From people experiencing burning eyes and trouble breathing to children drinking hand sanitizer, there’s been a jump in the number of cleaner and disinfectant-related accidental poisonings since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as Canadians try to keep themselves and their homes virus-free.

According to Health Canada, February and March combined showed a 58 per cent increase from the same period a year earlier in reported exposures related to cleaning products, bleaches, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and chlorine and chloramine gases. 

Poisonings involving bleach are most common, making up 38 per cent of all calls to poison centres in March.

Health Canada posts cleaning advice including what to do in case of poisoning, online and on social media. (@GovCanHealth/Twitter)

The federal health agency attributes the increase to factors such as:

  • More cleaning products in homes as people stock up in isolation.
  • More exposure to those products as people clean and disinfect their homes more often.
  • More time spent at home — including for children.

Jim Chan has seen the effects of cleaner- and disinfectant-related poisonings firsthand over the years. 

During his 36 years as a City of Toronto public health inspector, Chan investigated cases where people unknowingly used a toxic combination of cleaning chemicals. Chan retired a few years ago and now works as a health consultant.

“One lady used a mixture of vinegar and chlorine bleach in a bucket trying to clean her counter at home and ended up in the hospital, because there was a large volume of chlorine gas being manufactured causing quite a bit of injury,” said Chan.

“In more serious cases, that could be fatal.”

Chan now has a Facebook page where people can post questions about how to clean safely. 

WATCH | Jim Chan shows what makes a cleaning mix toxic:

Longtime health inspector Jim Chan demonstrates how not to get poisoned while disinfecting your home against COVID-19. 1:15

Health Canada and the five regional poison centres from across the country — which represent all provinces and territories — provided CBC News with the most-recent numbers of reported exposure to toxic cleaning products from February and March in 2019 compared to 2020. 

During those two months, the number of exposures reported to poison centres went up from 954 in 2019 to 1,506 in 2020.

Chan thinks the number is likely higher since some people won’t report less-serious reactions to poison centres or don’t recognize the symptoms associated with cleaner-related poisonings.

Health Canada says numbers for April 2020 aren’t yet available.

Taking precautions 

Kate Wallace from Toronto has stepped up her cleaning and disinfecting methods since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, replacing her regular vinegar and water cleaner with a bleach and water mixture to disinfect. 

She’s taking precautions to keep her two young children — daughter Charlie, 2, and son Emmett, 4 — away from toxic cleaners while also trying to keep the house virus-free.

Kate Wallace reinforces the dangers of cleaning products with her kids every time she cleans her home. (Submitted by Kate Wallace)

“They’re at that age where anything could happen in a couple of minutes,” said Wallace, who makes a point of storing  cleaning supplies on a high shelf and keeping her kids at a safe distance when she’s cleaning.

She follows the guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. on how to clean and disinfect safely, including how to make a bleach solution safely — by mixing ⅓-cup bleach with 16 cups of water.

“The kids are pretty respectful of it, and I think being really consistent about the container you use as well, so they know what to look for, has really been helpful,” she said. 

Common cleaning mistakes

Chan says Canadians should make sure they take cleaning advice from reputable sources, such as government websites. 

He says the most common mistake people make is mixing bleach with vinegar or with a cleaning product that has ammonia in it, producing potentially deadly gases. Some wipes used to clean surfaces have ammonia in them, he says, so people should read labels carefully. 

WATCH | How to mix cleaning agents safely:

Jim Chan shows how some common cleaning products can be used safely to disinfect your home against the virus. 2:32

“Some labels can be very confusing,” he said. “So, make sure that it’s only bleach and water mixed together as per the CDC guidelines.”

He says the mixture should be made and used in a well-ventilated space while wearing gloves. Once surfaces are wiped down with bleach, people should leave it on for one minute and then wipe it off, Chan says.

Accidental consumption

He also warns against accidental ingestion of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The greater the alcohol content, the greater the danger, he says. 

“Accidental consumption, especially by kids, can be quite serious, so if you have kids at home, you have to be so careful because some of the alcohol-based sanitizers smell pretty good … like fruit.”

There’s also a risk to people who clean fruits or produce with too much sanitizer or use excessive amounts on their hands before eating.

The CDC recently reported a case of a preschool-aged girl who was found unresponsive at home after ingesting an unknown amount of ethanol-based hand sanitizer. According to the report, her blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit in most states.

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Federal government to provide $14B to provinces, territories to 'safely' restart economies – CBC.ca

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The federal government is providing $14 billion to the provinces and territories to help them “safely and carefully” reopen their economies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement at his daily news conference outside his residence at Rideau Cottage this morning.

Trudeau also announced that Canadians with disabilities will receive a one-time payment of up to $600 to help offset the higher costs of living during the pandemic.

The government has announced emergency aid for unemployed Canadians, students, businesses and seniors, but advocates say that people with disabilities were falling through the cracks.

Many face increases in the cost of living, such as higher grocery bills and delivery service fees.

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Bouncing back? Canada added 290,000 jobs in May – CBC.ca

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After losing more than three million jobs in March and April, Canada’s economy added 290,000 jobs in May, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The data agency reported that 290,000 more people had paid employment in May than in April. The surge means May was the best one-month gain for jobs in Canada in 45 years, although it happened from an admittedly low bar. It also  means the labour market has bounced back by about 10 per cent of the hit it took from COVID-19.

Despite the job gains, Canada’s official unemployment rate rose to 13.7 per cent, as 491,000 more people were looking for work in the job market, notably students, whose search for summer work isn’t normally recorded in the months before May.

In February, Canada’s jobless rate was 5.6 per cent. It increased to 7.8 per cent in March and 13 per cent in April. The number of unemployed Canadians has more than doubled since February.

Blows away negative expectations

The job gains came as a pleasant surprise to economists, most of whom were expecting more job losses for the month.

The average expectation for the job numbers from economists polled by Bloomberg was for a loss of about 500,000 more jobs. But not all of them thought the number would plunge again.

Economist Benoit Durocher at Desjardins was one of just two to forecast the adding of jobs — 400,000 to be precise.

That was his call before the numbers came out, and his optimism proved prescient.

His reasoning was simple: as many Canadian provinces cautiously reopened in May, some of those people who were laid off temporarily in March and April would trickle back to work and show up in May’s employment numbers.

“Employment should rebound and return to positive territory in May, but the extent of the rebound remains unclear,” Durocher said ahead of the numbers coming out. “Under these circumstances, the unemployment rate should begin trending downwards. However, the return to pre-COVID-19 levels could be fairly slow.”

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Should everyone be tested for COVID-19? Most Canadians think so, poll shows – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Experts say widespread testing for COVID-19 is one of the most effective defences against a second wave of infections, a measure most Canadians support according to a recent poll.

More than three in five Canadians say they are in favour of testing every Canadian for the novel coronavirus, according to a Nanos Research poll commissioned by CTV News.

The random survey of 1,009 Canadians, which took place between May 26 and 28, revealed that 28 per cent of respondents support and 33 per cent somewhat support widespread testing measures, while more than one in three opposed the idea.

Polling data shows that residents of Atlantic Canada and Ontario have a higher intensity of support for universal testing than residents in Western Canada.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, provinces are working to expand their testing criteria to include people with very mild or even abnormal COVID-19 symptoms, an effort Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says will help spot possible community cases that would otherwise go undetected.

Officials are also working to roll out the country’s first antibody test as rapidly as possible to help determine how much of the population may have been infected.

But some provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, have routinely fallen behind their diagnostic targets. The criteria for who can get tested also ranges widely between each province.

Nanos polling also shows that Canadians are more likely to say they are confident that there will be a vaccine available to fight COVID-19 within the next 12 months. However, four in ten respondents are not confident in that timeline.

Tam has noted that officials are working to understand how administering an eventual vaccine would be prioritized to certain segments of the population while considering “the maximum number of Canadians who may wish to be vaccinated.”

 

MOST CANADIANS HAPPY WITH PROVINCIAL RESPONSE

According to the poll, more than three in five Canadians are confident that their public health authorities have an accurate count of the number of COVID-19 cases in their province.

However, Ontario residents were less confident in the province’s data, with the majority of respondents doubting the official case count.

Ontario, one of the hardest hit provinces, has had several instances of reporting errors since the beginning of the outbreak.

On Thursday, the province recorded a spike in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 after days of relatively lower numbers. However, officials said the increase may have been due to a lag in reporting from local public health units. This comes just days after officials revealed nearly 500 COVID-19 patients were not flagged to local public health agencies for contact tracing due to a reporting error.

When it comes to the economic ramifications of the outbreak, nearly eight in ten Canadians say the opening up of the economy in their province is being done in a safe (33 per cent) or somewhat safe (46 per cent) way.

Residents in B.C. and Atlantic Canada were the most confident in the safety measures being taken to reopen the economy.

However, when asked which approach Canada should take to opening its border with the U.S., 40 per cent of Canadians say Canada should keep the border closed to non-essential traffic until the end of the summer. Thirty-one per cent say Canada should keep the border closed until there is a vaccine.

Twenty per cent of Canadians say the border should open to non-essential traffic once businesses are allowed to open, even if social distancing is still in place, with residents of the Prairies the most likely to be in favour of reopening.

 

METHODOLOGY

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,009 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between May 26 and April 28, 2020. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online.

The margin of error this survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The research was commissioned by CTV News and was conducted by Nanos Research. 

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