Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is it at all possible to live after drinking bleach?

  1. Jul 25, 2014 #1
    Is it at all possible to live after drinking bleach? A friend of a friend of a friend... tried to kill herself with a bag of pills and a bottle of bleach. Medics found her and resuscitated her, she has been in the hospital in critical care for about 12 hours. I am wondering if it is at all possible for her to live and heal, or will her insides eventually rot? I guess she vomited on all the medics when she was revived, not sure if that is beneficial or not to the story as it would burn everything a second time.

    Remember, this isn't someone I know, so advice won't help. I just want to know if anyone has lived through something like this. I have no idea what quantity was, or what pills she took.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2014 #2

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    This cites the LD50 for sodium hypochlorite (the active ingredient in household bleach) as 5800mg/kg for rats.
    http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9925000 LD50 means the dose in mg required to kill 50% of the subjects given the chemical in question. Assuming rats and humans respond about the same way.

    So the person swallowed about 1 quart of 5% bleach solution. One quart of water is ~943g, so let's assume 5% of the mass is from sodium hypochlorite. That gives about 48g of sodium hypochlorite; divide by 5.8 gives about 8.1 kg. Assume the woman was 50kg. She got enough chemical to be fatal maybe 1 time in 10.


    Vomiting reduced the dose as well. The side effects of lesser doses include severe nausea and damage to epithelial linings (stomach, esophagus, and mouth burns).

    I did not find any clinical data for people, just severe warnings. For dogs:

    Someone else may be able to find some clinical data.

    Basically it is hard to kill yourself outright with a dose of 5% bleach solution.
  4. Jul 26, 2014 #3
    This gives some info on exposure.

    It says ingestion of up to up to 200ml for adults / 50ml for children of <10% solution usually has minimal effect.

    The paper falls in with what Jim stated, that it is mildly toxic as a houshold bleach solution.
  5. Jul 30, 2014 #4
    Thank you Jim and 256. That was interesting to read. I had no idea that bleach would be basically "mildly toxic". But then for that matter, I had never heard of it being used for suicide either. I can be rather naive at times. All I know is how difficult it is to wash off your hands, so it must stick to the insides pretty well also.

    The last I heard a few days ago, she did live through the weekend, and they were going to release her Monday or Tuesday. I assume by now she has been released, but I have no idea.
  6. Jul 30, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    This is a case where 'the dose makes the poison'. Because household bleach is rather dilute, the damage if taken internally is minimal if proper treatment is rendered immediately. If a stronger solution of sodium hypochlorite had been ingested, the damage could have been more serious, even with prompt treatment.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook