Help! I Accidently Inhaled Bleach While Pregnant (Here is what you need to know)

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It can be hard to avoid exposure to household chemicals when pregnant. But if you have accidentally inhaled bleach while pregnant and freaking out, here is what you need to know.

Chemicals surround us in our daily life. The chemicals in your everyday skin-care products, flame retardants on furniture, mattress, pregnancy pillow, pesticides in your garden, and cleaning products in your household could possibly harm your baby.

Hand with blue gloves cleaning surface with spray bottle and wipes
Photo by Anton on Unsplash

However, the quantity of toxic chemicals in these household products is low to cause serious harm. But why take a risk when you are pregnant!

The use of bleach to disinfect surfaces or as a cleaning agent has increased in-home today, as people are more worried about bacteria and viruses on the surface of their homes in the pandemic.

Accidental exposure to any chemicals, while you are deep cleaning the washroom or removing stains from the cloth will not harm you or your baby. But exposure to toxic chemicals in large quantities for a longer duration could possibly harm your baby.

If you have accidentally inhaled bleach during pregnancy or cleaned with bleach without wearing gloves, you do not need to worry about it as long as you feel normal. There are no studies that show adverse outcomes for a baby when the mother is exposed to bleach or other cleaning agents short-term.

But let’s look at how bleach works, the effect of bleach inhalation, and how long bleach fumes stay in the air after cleaning.

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What is Bleach?

Sodium Hypochlorite is an active ingredient in household bleach. The concentration of sodium hypochlorite in household bleach is approximately 3-6%, making it a mild skin irritant.

Sodium hypochlorite is highly effective in killing pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even Influenza virus). It takes 10-60 minutes to disinfect the surface after initial contact.

Is Bleach safe to use during Pregnancy?

hand with blue glove cleaning wash basin
Image by 6581245 from Pixabay

While bleach is highly effective in disinfecting surfaces, indoor use can create a potentially toxic environment, especially when pregnant.

You can get exposed to bleach by inhalation, ingestion, or direct skin contact when using bleach as a cleaning agent.

Bleach is a major skin, eye, mouth, and throat irritant when you come in direct contact. Another major concern working with bleach indoors is its effect on the respiratory system.

Bleach has a distinct odor, and the minute you smell bleach in it may make you think you have put yourself into danger. But it does not work like that. Your sense of smell isn’t a good measure of the amount of chemicals your baby is getting exposed to in utero.

But if you start feeling dizzy, confused, or lightheaded after exposure, it may indicate that you are being exposed to a larger quantity of bleach.

Yes, inhaling bleach fume in large quantities can cause fluid build-up in the lungs and shortness of breath, which can be dangerous for your baby as they do not get enough oxygen to breathe in.

So overall, household bleach is considered non-toxic if used according to label directions, following recommended ventilation, and proper dressing (rubber gloves, safety glasses, and mask).

But severe harm could occur if bleach is mixed with other household cleaners like toilet bowl cleaner or ammonia. When bleach is mixed with ammonia, it releases a large amount of toxic chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is heavier than air and is an oxidizing agent. When chlorine gas is inhaled, it reacts with moist tissue in the body, releasing hypochloric acid, free oxygen radicals, and hypochlorous acid, which can cause tissue damage and death in some cases.

A clinical case report published in 2020 reported the death of a hemophilic pregnant woman in the first trimester after using a combination of bleach and detergent.

So, avoid mixing bleach with any other cleaning product for safety purposes.

How long Does Bleach Smell last in the air Indoor?

It is always best to avoid exposure to bleach while pregnant. But if you have used bleach to clean bathrooms or other surfaces at home, you will likely smell bleach. When bleach is applied to the surface area, it takes 10-60 minutes to disinfect the area, and while it is sitting on the surface, it will fume and spread in the air indoors.

It has a very distinct odor that you will smell the second it is sprayed on the surface. Depending on the amount of bleach used or ventilation of the area it’s been sprayed on decides how long it will stick in the air indoor.

If blech is applied on a well-ventilated area or has an exhaust fan turned on, it will dissipate in a couple of minutes. But if bleach is sprayed in large quantities on areas with poor ventilation, you may be exposed to bleach fumes for a longer duration.

So, what can you do if you Accidentally Inhaled bleach while Pregnant?

If you have accidentally inhaled bleach while pregnant, you are probably okay as long as you are not experiencing any symptoms like lung irritation, coughing, or shortness of breath.

I have worked in a research lab in virus propagating facilities during my pregnancy. I have used bleach almost every day to disinfect the surface area and laboratory flasks and beakers. So even though I was wearing personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, safety glasses, I have inhaled plenty of bleach during those nine months. And my child is perfectly normal.

So, my point is that accidental exposure to bleach while pregnant will not harm your child.

In case of accidental exposure to bleach indoors during pregnancy, leave your house immediately and get some fresh air. And have someone else ventilate your house to remove the smell of bleach from your home. In addition, opening all the windows and doors and turning on the exhaust fan will help remove contaminated air from your house.

And, if you are not feeling well after exposure or experiencing shortness of breath or coughing, seek medical advice.

Tips for Cleaning with Bleach while Pregnant

It is always best to avoid bleach when you are pregnant. It has a distinct odor that may make you feel uncomfortable the second you spray bleach on the surface. But if you want to use bleach during pregnancy, there are always ways to protect yourself and your family.

Wear PPE

If you want to use bleach for cleaning during pregnancy, it is best to protect yourself with rubber gloves to avoid skin contact, a mask to avoid inhalation, safety glasses for eye protection. You can also wear long sleeve or full clothing and shoes to avoid accidental contact with bleach while cleaning.

Open Window

Before you start cleaning with bleach, open all the windows and doors of the room. Proper ventilation and airflow will protect you from inhaling bleach fume for a longer duration.

Read instructions

It is important to read label instructions on a bleach container to use bleach indoor for cleaning purposes safely. Because many people do not know the right amount of bleach to use for cleaning purposes, they either overuse or underuse the product. If you use less bleach than what the label says on the container, you are not killing pathogens on the surface. And when you overuse bleach, you are putting yourself at the risk of chemical exposure.

And NEVER mix bleach with any other cleaning product or detergent to achieve extra cleaning goals. The chemical reactions of mixing two products release a large amount of toxic chlorine gas it could be potentially dangerous to your and your baby.

Find Natural Cleaning Solutions

There are safer alternatives to clean bathrooms during pregnancy. For example, you can use baking soda and vinegar to clean your bathroom. Or use an equal part of dish soap and white vinegar and spray on tough build-up, leave it overnight, then scrub it in the morning.

Chemicals to avoid in Cleaning Products during Pregnancy

While it is impossible to completely avoid all the chemicals in cleaning products, you can choose your cleaning products wisely to avoid the main culprits. Here are the chemicals to avoids in cleaning products during pregnancy

Phthalates

Phthalates are regarded as hormone disruptors. They are very prominent chemicals in household cleaning products like laundry detergents, softeners, liquid shops, beauty products. It is also tricky to track down in products as it is often listed as fragrance or perfume. So, you need to avoid the use of scented products during pregnancy.

Glycol Ethers

Glycol Ethers are organic solvents and the main ingredient in glass cleaners, floor cleaners, oven cleaners, and carpet cleaners. Exposure to glycol ethers has been shown to cause reduced fertility, birth defect, and embryonic death in animal studies. In addition, occupational exposure of pregnant women to glycol ethers has been shown to cause birth defects (neural tube defect, cleft lip).

Avoid Aerosol and Spray Cleaners

Any cleaning product that you can spray should be avoided during pregnancy if possible. Studies have shown a link between spray cleaner and increased risk of asthma.

Air fresheners

Prenatal exposure to air fresheners can also cause an increased risk of respiratory problems. In addition, air freshener has phthalate as a fragrance, so it is best to avoid using it during pregnancy.

Conclusion

I hope this article relieves your worry if you have accidentally inhaled bleach while pregnant. Short term – low quantity exposure to bleach or any other household cleaning products will not harm you or your baby. But it is best to avoid using bleach or other toxic cleaning products when pregnant.

Why take a risk when there are many safe, natural cleaning products available in the market to deep clean your house during pregnancy?

If you still want to clean with bleach, wear proper protective gear such as rubber gloves, masks, and safety glasses and keep your windows and door open for proper ventilation.

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pinterest pin with pregnant women holding spray bottle and brush for cleaning _with Text inhaled bleach during pregnancy

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