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Is Breathing in Bleach Bad?
Yes, inhaling bleach fumes is detrimental as it exposes the respiratory system to sodium hypochlorite and chlorine gases, which can damage lung tissue and airways, leading to respiratory complications and chemical burns.
It can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract, leading to symptoms like coughing, chest tightness, and in severe cases, respiratory distress.
Many of us know someone with a heightened sensitivity to strong odors, particularly the pungent smell of bleach. In my own home, that person is my wife.
The mere presence of bleach-based products in our cleaning routine is enough to trigger an immediate and unpleasant reaction for her. Even a task as mundane as cleaning the toilet with bleach is off-limits; it results in an instant headache and a wave of nausea for her.
This personal experience has led me to delve deeper into the effects of bleach exposure, emphasizing the importance of understanding and mitigating its impact, especially for those with heightened sensitivity.
Why Breathing Bleach is So Dangerous?
Bleach contains chemicals like sodium hypochlorite, hydrochloric acid, and sodium hydroxide. When bleach is mixed with water or acids, it releases chlorine gas. Chlorine gas can cause severe irritation and damage to the eyes, skin, lungs, and throat.
Inhaling chlorine gas can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fluid buildup in the lungs. At high concentrations, it can cause respiratory failure, pulmonary edema, and death.1
Effects of Breathing Bleach Fumes
|Burning eyes, nose, throat
|Wheezing, chest tightness
Exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Short-term effects include coughing, choking, wheezing, nausea, and burning sensations. Long-term effects like respiratory infections, asthma, lung scarring, and even cancer can occur with repeated exposure.
Situations Where Bleach Inhalation Occurs
There are certain situations where bleach inhalation is more likely to occur:
- Cleaning with bleach – Using bleach cleaners in small, poorly ventilated areas can allow concentrated fumes to build up.
- Mixing bleach and other chemicals – Never mix bleach with products containing ammonia or acids, as this creates toxic chlorine and chloramine gases.
- Accidents with bleach – Spilling bleach directly onto the skin or eyes can cause immediate burning and irritation.
- Suicide attempts – Some use bleach to attempt self-harm through ingestion or inhalation. This is extremely dangerous.
What to Do When You Inhale Bleach
If bleach fumes are inhaled, it’s important to get to fresh air immediately. Other steps include:
- Move the person away from the contaminated area.
- Call emergency services like 911 immediately.
- Administer oxygen if available.
- Have them rest and avoid exertion.
- Remove any contaminated clothing.
- Flush eyes or skin with cool water if irritated.
- Seek medical evaluation, even if symptoms resolve, as lung damage may have occurred.
Bleach inhalation requires rapid medical treatment to avoid complications. Never assume someone is fine just because initial symptoms like coughing have improved.2
How To Get Rid of Bleach Fumes
To reduce or eliminate bleach fumes in an area, follow these steps:
- Ventilation: Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate and disperse the fumes.
- Air Purifiers: Use air purifiers with activated carbon filters which can help absorb chemical smells and fumes.
- Neutralizing the Odor: Bowls of white vinegar or baking soda placed around the space can help absorb and neutralize odors.
- Water and Lemon: Simmering a pot of water with sliced lemon can also help to purify the air and neutralize the bleach smell.
- Fans and HVAC: Use fans to push air out and turn on the HVAC system to help filter the air.
How Long Do Bleach Fumes Last?
The persistence of bleach fumes can vary based on factors like the amount of bleach used, ventilation, and humidity levels. In well-ventilated areas, the fumes may dissipate within a few hours.
In poorly ventilated or more enclosed spaces, the fumes can linger for several days. Using air purifiers and increasing ventilation can speed up the process of removing fumes.
How To Get Rid of a Bleach Headache
If you’re experiencing a headache from bleach fumes, consider these steps:
- Fresh Air: Immediately move to an area with fresh air to reduce further inhalation of fumes.
- Hydration: Drink plenty of water to help flush out any chemicals and to stay hydrated.
- Rest: Rest in a well-ventilated room, away from the contaminated area.
- Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate headache symptoms.
- Medical Attention: If the headache persists or is severe, seek medical attention as it could indicate a more serious exposure.
Does Inhaling bleach Make You Cough?
Yes, inhaling bleach can definitely make you cough. The irritation caused by the chemicals in bleach, such as chlorine gas, can lead to a reflex cough. The body tries to expel the irritating substance from the respiratory tract, leading to coughing, throat irritation, and potentially other respiratory symptoms.
Is it safe to mix bleach and vinegar?
No, never mix bleach and vinegar. Mixing bleach and vinegar creates chlorine gas, which is highly toxic if inhaled. Even small amounts of chlorine gas can irritate lungs and airways.
Can Inhaling Clorox Fumes kill you?
Yes, inhaling Corex fumes can potentially kill you. Inhaling concentrated amounts of bleach or prolonged exposure to fumes can lead to respiratory failure and death. Seek immediate medical help if bleach is inhaled.
What does inhaling bleach do to lungs?
Inhaling bleach irritates and damages the tissues of the lungs and respiratory tract. It can cause fluid buildup, swelling, and bronchospasms in the lungs. Long-term scarring, higher infection risk, and reduced lung function can result.
How long does bleach inhalation last?
Acute symptoms like coughing and sore throat may last for several hours after bleach inhalation. However, lung damage can persist much longer and certain symptoms like wheezing may continue for days or weeks after exposure.
Can you die from cleaning with bleach?
Extremely unlikely when used properly. But using bleach to clean small enclosed spaces can produce concentrated fumes. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of chlorine gas can potentially lead to death in severe cases.
What does bleach do to your brain?
Bleach has no known effects on the brain when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. However, ingesting bleach can potentially cause brain damage from chemical burns and the body’s reaction to poisoning.
How much bleach does it take to kill you?
As little as one cup of bleach can kill if ingested. For inhalation, severe effects require prolonged exposure to very concentrated fumes exceeding safe exposure limits. The amount needed would vary based on the strength of the bleach.
For more information, see this safety overview of bleach.