Monday, July 9, 2012

Mixing Household Cleaners

Severe Lung Injury after Exposure to Chloramine Gas from Household Cleaners:

            Everyday household cleaners can be extremely dangerous since most of its users are unaware of their chemical composition and how these could react with other seemingly harmless substances and gases.  An article published by the New England Journal of Medicine talks about the dangers of mixing household cleaners.  This article discusses the case in which a healthy 53 year old woman suffered from swelling of the upper airway requiring an emergency tracheostomy after mixing over the counter bleach and ammonia while cleaning a freezer at her place of employment.  She later developed pneumonitis and needed artificial ventilation before recovering. 

Without thinking too much about it, I have seen how family members and friends mix different cleaners to achieve a “stronger cleaning power”, and refill bottles of bleach with some other types of cleaners.  This article explains how pulmonary irritation and pneumonitis are just some of the possible side effects of mixing and inhaling cleaners’ fumes.  The combination of such common cleaners as household ammonia and bleach releases chloramines’ gas which in turn will “react with the moisture of the respiratory tract to release ammonia, hydrochloric acid and oxygen free radicals.” (Graeme, Tanen, and Raschke 848-849) These molecules will typically cause mild respiratory tract irritation when inhaled in small amounts, but in high concentrations these chemical combinations could “cause corrosive effects and cellular injury” (Graeme, Tanen, and Raschke 848-849) that could result in pneumonitis and edema.

Graeme, Kimberlie, David Tanen, and Robert Raschke. "Severe Lung Injury after Exposure to Chloramine Gas from Household Cleaners." New England Journal Of Medicine. 344 (1999): 848-849. Web. 9 Jul. 2012. <>.

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