Suicide attempts due to consumption of bleach or derivatives increase by 9%

  • A study by the Hospital del Mar shows the increase in autolysis attempts due to intoxication of chemical products and toxic gases in 2020 with the appearance of covid-19

More and more different studies show how much it has aggravated the covid-19 pandemic the mental health of the population. One of the things that doctors have noticed the most is that the number of suicide attempts has increased. Now a new study of the Hospital del Mar of Barcelona reveals that the suicide attempts for poisoning of chemicals and toxic gases. Among the toxic products is, for example, bleach intake or other cleaning products. Among toxic gases, carbon dioxide inhalation: people who, for example, lock themselves in the car with the engine running.

The job ” Evolution of assistance for chemical products and toxic gases in a period of seven years. Influence of the pandemic by covid-19 ‘ analyzes the 427 cases treated in this period of time, making a comparison between the six years prior to 2020 and this year, marked by a pandemic. “Although the vast majority are accidental, in 2020 we did notice an increase in the percentage of poisonings from caustic ingestion who were made with suicidal ideation “, explains to this newspaper the doctor August Superway, coordinator of the Functional Unit of Toxicology of the Hospital del Mar and one of the authors of the study.

Thus, in 2020 the unit treated a total of six poisonings with suicidal ideation (representing 11.5% of the total). However, in the previous six years, the unit had only seen eight (2.6% of the total), which indicates that, although the figures are low, they have increased by almost 9% as a result of covid-19. “The pandemic has increased mental disorders and this has resulted in more attempts at autolysis,” adds Supervía.

Many of these people, according to the doctor, had a “psychiatric history.” In fact, 34.6% of the patients had a psychiatric history, compared to 4% in the previous period. In addition, one of the things that the study has also noticed is that the average age has risen of those who attempted suicide with caustics: in 2018, the median age was 33. In 2019, 30. But in 2020, the average age was 42.4 years.


The Hospital del Mar has had a registry of poisonings for years. During the pandemic, especially during the first and second wave confinements, when people spent more time at home, the number of poisoning emergencies dropped. “We classify intoxications in accidental e intentioned. We divide the latter for recreational purposes or for self-destructive intent. What we saw in 2020 is that the accidental ones were maintained, but there was an increase in the autolytic ones, “says Dr. Supervía.

Normally, the Functional Unit of Toxicology of the Sea sees suicide attempts by ingestion of drugs. “But there are people who, for example, take bleach to try to commit suicide. Or people who leave the gas open. They are not the most frequent and the total numbers are not that high. But the percentages have increased and that is because there has been an impact of the pandemic “, he values.

The caustic poisonings (chemical products and toxic gases) represent, according to Supervía, a 10% of all poisonings. Many of them, as the doctor insists, are accidental. “The vast majority are not serious and we can discharge from the emergency room. “However, in 2020, El Mar admitted three people to the ICU for caustic poisoning. In the previous six years, five. Thus, ICU admissions came to represent 1.3 % of total cases to be almost 6%.

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Award for the best communication

This study from Hospital del Mar has been distinguished by the Spanish Foundation of Clinical Toxicology as the best communication presented at the Conference on Clinical Toxicology and the Conference on Toxicovigilance, held in virtual format last October.

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