The centre says the number of calls is unprecedented. “There’s always an increase during the holidays, but we’ve seen up to 20% more calls on top of that” says Dominique Vandijck.
People are being exposed to more dangerous substances because they are at home and have more time on their hands. But that is only part of the story. People are focused on cleaning and hygiene and have been using stronger substances, sometimes in unfortunate combinations. Irritating chemicals vapours have often been their lot.
“Some people have been disinfecting their hands with bleach or taking a shower or bath with bleach” says Dominique. “They disinfect their hands with methanol and essential oils. These are dangerous products that can cause burns and poisoning.”
The centre sometimes has to urge callers to contact their GP.
A couple of weeks ago US President Trump suggested injecting bleach may be a great idea. The ramifications of his words have also been felt in Belgium. “Belgians haven’t been injecting bleach, but they have been experimenting with it!” says Dominique. “It shows the far-reaching impact when people like that make such pronouncements.”