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Can gasoline and/or diesel be used to disinfect masks, surfaces, or even skin? What are potential dangers, if any, in doing so?

This article was published on
April 21, 2021

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No. Gasoline and/or diesel should not be used as a disinfectant, does not work as a disinfectant, has not been shown to kill the virus that causes COVID-19, and may be very harmful to human health. According to the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, gasoline exposure through the skin or eyes, drinking, or breathing can cause many health problems including the following: ·      Irritation or burns of the eyes, skin, or mucous membranes (i.e. the tissues in the nose, eyes, mouth, throat) ·      Headache, weakness, blurred vision, dizziness, slurred speech, confusion, convulsions ·      Chemical pneumonitis (when liquid gasoline is inhaled into the lungs and causes damage) ·      Possible liver or kidney damage ·      Long-term exposure may cause cancer ·      Gasoline is flammable and improper storage / use can lead to fires and burn injuries Gasoline exposure should be avoided and, if accidental exposure does happen, washing the exposed area is important. When exposed to gas fumes, it is important to leave the area where the fumes are to an area with fresh air or ventilation. Seek medical help for breathing problems as well as slurred speech, dizziness, confusion, or other symptoms of neurological (brain and nervous system) problems. 

No. Gasoline and/or diesel should not be used as a disinfectant, does not work as a disinfectant, has not been shown to kill the virus that causes COVID-19, and may be very harmful to human health. According to the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, gasoline exposure through the skin or eyes, drinking, or breathing can cause many health problems including the following: ·      Irritation or burns of the eyes, skin, or mucous membranes (i.e. the tissues in the nose, eyes, mouth, throat) ·      Headache, weakness, blurred vision, dizziness, slurred speech, confusion, convulsions ·      Chemical pneumonitis (when liquid gasoline is inhaled into the lungs and causes damage) ·      Possible liver or kidney damage ·      Long-term exposure may cause cancer ·      Gasoline is flammable and improper storage / use can lead to fires and burn injuries Gasoline exposure should be avoided and, if accidental exposure does happen, washing the exposed area is important. When exposed to gas fumes, it is important to leave the area where the fumes are to an area with fresh air or ventilation. Seek medical help for breathing problems as well as slurred speech, dizziness, confusion, or other symptoms of neurological (brain and nervous system) problems. 

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What our experts say

No. Gasoline and/or diesel should not be used as a disinfectant, does not work as a disinfectant, has not been shown to kill the virus that causes COVID-19, and may be very harmful to human health.

According to the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, gasoline exposure through the skin or eyes, drinking, or breathing can cause many health problems including the following: ·      Irritation or burns of the eyes, skin, or mucous membranes (i.e. the tissues in the nose, eyes, mouth, throat) ·      Headache, weakness, blurred vision, dizziness, slurred speech, confusion, convulsions ·      Chemical pneumonitis (when liquid gasoline is inhaled into the lungs and causes damage) ·      Possible liver or kidney damage ·      Long-term exposure may cause cancer ·      Gasoline is flammable and improper storage / use can lead to fires and burn injuries

Gasoline exposure should be avoided and, if accidental exposure does happen, washing the exposed area is important. When exposed to gas fumes, it is important to leave the area where the fumes are to an area with fresh air or ventilation. Seek medical help for breathing problems as well as slurred speech, dizziness, confusion, or other symptoms of neurological (brain and nervous system) problems. 

Context and background

While no health organizations have recommended the use of gasoline and/or diesel as a disinfectant, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has publicly said that people who cannot afford disinfects can use gasoline to clean masks and surfaces, during two separate televised briefings. While a representative then suggested that the initial comment was a joke, President Duterte made the same recommendation again and claimed he was not joking. Within a few hours of his statement, Integrated Chemists of the Philippines and national health groups responded, warning that the use of gasoline as a disinfectant does not protect against the virus that causes COVID-19 and can be harmful to human health (such as by leading to chemical irritation and bodily damage, increasing the risk of burns, etc.). People without access to commercial disinfectants can clean fabric masks, surfaces and skin by washing thoroughly with soap and water, followed by air-drying.

Resources

  1. Gasoline, 2019 (U.S. CDC NIOSH)
  2. Philippines' Duterte advises disinfecting face masks with gasoline, diesel, July 21, 2020 (Newsweek)
  3. Chemists warn against use of gasoline as disinfectant after Duterte remark , July 31, 2020 (CNN)
  4. Rodrigo Duterte: 'I'm not joking - clean masks with petrol' (BBC)

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