Trump’s Bizarre Claims: ‘Disinfectant, Sunlight Can Kill COVID-19’

President Trump statement is not just bizarre, it finds no backing of scientific studies or experts.

3 min read
President Trump at a White House press briefing on Thursday, 23 April, claimed that injecting people with disinfectants and exposure to sunlight will possibly kill coronavirus.


Adding to his list of COVID-19 misinformation, US President Donald Trump at a White House press briefing on Thursday, 23 April, claimed that injecting people with disinfectants and exposure to sunlight can possibly kill the coronavirus.

“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it's ultraviolet or just a very powerful light – and I think you said that hasn't been checked because of the testing. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that, too,” Trump said.

He also said, “I see the disinfectant that 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? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

The president’s remarks are being widely shared on all social media platforms.

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There are two parts to Trump’s claim:

  1. Use of disinfectant to treat COVID-19
  2. Sunlight as a cure for COVID-19

We decided to look into each claim separately.

First, there have been no studies which suggest that injecting disinfectants can help cure COVID-19 in any possible way. The Quint’s WebQoof team spoke to Dr Suranjit Chatterjee from Apollo Hospital, who told us that it’s a bizarre and dangerous comment and injecting disinfectant in the blood can be life-threatening.

Although, Trump didn’t specify which disinfectant, companies involved in the manufacturing of disinfectants have come out to issue clarifications.

Alexios Mantzarlis is one of the founding directors of International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and currently the News and Information Credibility Lead at Google News Lab.

Further, Dr Reeteka Sud, research coordinator in NIMHANS, Bangalore, too, told The Quint that injecting a disinfectant is not a cure for COVID-19, and rather can possibly be lethal.

“Soaps and disinfectants work by pulling apart the lipid layer that surrounds a virus. The thing is, that our cells are surrounded by a lipid layer as well. Injecting (or ingesting) a disinfectant in person will therefore cause widespread damage in their body, and quite possibly be lethal,” she said.

Following Trump’s bizarre remarks, in New York, as many as 30 cases of possible exposure to disinfectants were managed by the Poison Control Center, a subagency of the city’s Health Department between 9 pm on Thursday, 23 April and 3 pm on Friday 24, April, the Daily News reported.

“None of the people who reached out died or required hospitalisation,” a spokesman mentioned, the report added.

Coming to Trump’s second claim about sunlight eliminating coronavirus, there have been several studies on the relation between COVID-19 and a rise in temperature. However, most of these studies have been performed under lab conditions and experts have warned against drawing any conclusions too soon.

The World Health Organisation has also clarified that exposure to UV radiation can cause skin irritability.

“Studies have shown that the novel coronavirus is destroyed at a temperature as high as 56 degrees. Exposure to this temperature is also harmful to the human body. Hence, relying on high temperature is not recommended,” Dr Chatterjee said, when asked about sunlight and its impact on COVID-19.

He further mentioned that sunlight can act as a good disinfectant for objects but it’s only bizarre to think that it can help in the treatment of coronavirus in any way.

Meanwhile, Dr Sud, commenting on Trump’s sunlight remark, said: “UV in sunlight kills germs by damaging their DNA. It has the same effect on our DNA too. For that reason, UV exposure can cause many problems, including skin cancer.”

She added that neither disinfectants nor sunlight are preventive or curative for the novel coronavirus.

(The story has been updated with Dr Reetika Sud’s quote and the number of cases of possible exposure to disinfectants in New York, following Trump’s statement)

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