Side effects of inhaling bleach

Written by charlie gaston
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Side effects of inhaling bleach
(bottles of cleaning product. bleach. disinfectant. image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com)

Bleach is a common household cleaning product. Generally stored in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or basement, bleach can be used for laundry as well as for cleaning and disinfecting. If you inhale bleach, side effects could result.

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Prevention/Solution

Inhalation of bleach can occur when laundering or cleaning a surface in the home. The best way to avoid excessive exposure to dangerous fumes is to wear a mask or open a window or door to allow the fumes to escape. Always use bleach products according to the manufacturer's label and wash skin immediately if bleach spills onto it.

Effects

Inhalation of bleach can cause severe internal damage, including deterioration of the oesophagus lining and lungs. Scarring of the respiratory tract can also occur, according to "Poisons Under Your Sink: Hidden Danger of Cleaning Products," an article published by mamashealth.com. While these effects may not occur with each incidence of inhalation, it is best to limit exposure to bleach and use only while in a well-ventilated area. If bleach is diluted with water, it will have a lower concentration and may pose a lesser risk. The safest and most effective way to combat overexposure is to use a surgical mask, which can be purchased at pharmacies and large retailers in the first-aid aisle.

Fumes Trapped in the Skin

Because bleach has a pH greater than 8, it is classified as a base and will create a slippery effect on the skin, according to visionlearning.com. Wash the skin of all residue to remove trace odour of the bleach. The slippery effect may make removal more difficult. Use vinegar or lemon to assist this process. According to chacha.com, lemon and vinegar--two acids--can cancel out the smell and slippery feel of bleach. Repeat as necessary and reduce contact with your face and nose. Though concentrated at a much lower level, fumes trapped in the skin can still be damaging if inhaled over an extensive period of time. Trapped fumes can also exacerbate previous inhalation symptoms.

Exposure to High Concentrations of Bleach

Exposure to high concentrations of bleach can result in eyes burning, nose irritation and coughing. Exposure to extremely high levels of bleach, such as 500 ppm (a concentration significantly greater than household bleach), could result in respiratory damage, chronic bronchitis and airway hyperactivity. In some cases, death can occur. Always wear the appropriate equipment and protective masks when working near high concentrations of bleach. According to the Hazardous Substance Emergency Events Surveillance, a report published by the state of Maine, you should always report any symptoms that may occur, including coughing, nausea, shortness of breath, watery eyes, chest pain, irritation to the throat, nose and eyes, and wheezing,

Warning

Contact a poison control centre to seek immediate treatment if inhalation occurs. Speak with a health care professional to determine whether additional treatment is necessary.

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