A subtitle for this blog might be, “The Deadly Truth About Household Cleansers.”
The other day my wife was using a bottle of carpet cleaner and asked me if the product was poisonous if ingested. I’ve long ago stopped questioning my wife’s motives with such questions. I know she’s simply acting as my research assistant and giving me more ideas for interesting blogs—at least I hope that’s what her motivation is with such questions!
As it turns out, carpet and upholstery cleansers can be deadly concoctions. They usually contain toxic substances like perchlorethylene or ammonium hydroxide. See here and here for recent articles on accidental poisonings with household cleaners.
Short-term exposure to perchlorethylene via deep inhalation can lead to wheezing that can progress to a severe buildup of fluid in the lungs—think in terms of a person drowning in their own fluids. Less severe symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, sleepiness, nausea and vomiting, and severe irritation and swelling of the respiratory tract.
The symptoms of ingestion of carpet and upholstery cleaners include mouth and throat irritation, swelling of that same mucosae, nausea and vomiting, and a moderate to severe drop in blood pressure—think collapsing on the floor.
Many other similar household cleaners and detergents contains variations of chlorine and these cause similar reactions. Larger doses can lead to convulsions and death. Exposure to skin can create burn-like lesions. Splashing such cleaning agents into the eyes initially causes blurred vision and burning that can progress to vision loss if not treated soon after exposure.
The best treatment for cleaning agents in the eye is to flush the eye with running water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention as soon as possible after that.
Two extremely toxic substances are hypochlorite and formaldehyde. These are often found specifically in mold and mildew cleaners, such as bleaching agents. Both chemicals are lethal when ingested. Concentrated fumes of sodium hypochlorite are particularly toxic and can lead to severe fluid buildup in the lungs.
The treatment for ingestion of these household chemicals includes one important, initial recommendation—DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING, unless instructed to by a medical professional. Emesis rich in the lethal chemical can cause further tissue damage on the way up just as it did on the way down.
The usual medical treatments for such poisonings include specific life support medications, activated charcoal, and the use of intravenous fluids and oxygen.
So even ordinary household cleaners can have dramatic lethal effects if used creatively in your murder plot.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!