Health and Science

'It's irresponsible and it's dangerous': Experts rip Trump's idea of injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19

Jane C. Timm
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 23, 2020.
Michael Reynolds | EPA | Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested exploring disinfectants as a possible treatment for COVID-19 infections — an extremely dangerous proposition that could kill people, medical experts warn.

After a Homeland Security official mentioned the ability of disinfectants like bleach to kill the coronavirus on surfaces, Trump remarked on the effectiveness.

"And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump said during his daily press briefing at the White House. "Because you see it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So that you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds — it sounds interesting to me."

Disinfectants like bleach are poisonous and dangerous when mishandled, doctors say.

"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, global health policy expert and an NBC News and MSNBC contributor. "It's a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves."

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Trump's own Food and Drug Administration specifically warned against people drinking the chemicals in disinfectants ­— a fake science that has been peddled as a cure to autism and HIV for decades —noting that consumption of such "products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration."

"Any amount of bleach or isopropyl alcohol or any kind of common household cleaner is inappropriate for ingestion even in small amounts. Small amounts are deadly," Gupta said.

Online, doctors reacted with horror.

Gupta added that it was "demoralizing" as a doctor to hear the White House "peddle improper health messaging," and said the president had a pattern of pushing unproven medical treatments.

The president spent weeks advocating for the use of antimalarial drug hydroxycloroquine, after anecdotal evidence emerged suggesting it might help patients fighting COVID-19. On Tuesday, a study of coronavirus patients in a Veterans Affairs hospital saw more deaths among those treated with hydroxychloroquine than those treated with standard care.

"It's exceptionally dangerous," Gupta told NBC News. "There's people who hang on to every word of the president."

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President Trump asks about using ultraviolet light and injecting disinfectants to treat coronavirus

The claim came after a long exchange in which Trump also suggested that light and heat — which also can destroy the coronavirus on a surface — be used as a cure to the disease the virus causes in humans.

"Maybe you can, maybe you can't. I'm not a doctor, I'm like a person who has a good you know what," Trump said pointing to his head.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said she had not seen heat and light used as "a treatment."

Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee, criticized Trump for the suggestions on Twitter.

"Here's an idea, Mr. President: more tests. Now. And protective equipment for actual medical professionals," Biden said.