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Bleach Fumes
March 2002

Q. I was cleaning with bleach and began to have a hard time breathing. I went outside and got some fresh air. I was wondering if fumes from bleach can cause permanent injury to the lungs? I'm still having problems breathing. Should I go to the doctor or will this resolve itself in a few days?

A. Household bleach is very irritating when breathed and can cause significant injury if ingested (swallowed) or with skin contact. The household cleaning products with bleach are much more dilute than bleach used industrially, and are less likely to cause serious consequences. Breathing bleach fumes is so irritating that the victim will quickly move to an area of fresh air as you have done.

Cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath can be symptoms of exposure, and usually clear with fresh air breathing. If any symptoms persist, your doctor can do an exam and order any appropriate tests.



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