Asphyxiation, not Bleach Toxicity killed 12 year old

Via CNN, which has the editor’s tease title:”Police: Girl died after mother forced her to drink bleach

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) — A woman angry with her 12-year-old daughter for having sex forced the girl to drink bleach and sat on her until the child died, a police detective said.

Archie is charged with capital murder in the asphyxiation death of her daughter Jasmine. If convicted, she could be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole.

She said she poured bleach into Jasmine’s mouth and the child vomited, he said, then sat on her until she stopped breathing, Cotton testified.

Asphyxiation is not that uncommon a way to die, though this is certainly an extreme event.

What this is not is bleach toxicity. Household bleach is less than 6% hypochlorite, and according to my toxicology reference text is a “mild gastrointestinal irritant”:

“…little or no effect in small ingestions. In moderate to large ingestions, gastrointestinal effects such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps, or vomiting may occur. The effects are usually mild and rarely require medical intervention”.

Though, as a parent, if you caught your child drinking bleach, then vomiting, you’d be forgiven for being alarmed (but not forgiven for letting your kid get to bleach in the first place).*

If it is your kid, call poison control for your area (you have their number, right there on the fridge, right?). More than likely they’ll tell you to have the patient drink some milk, and wait it out. (This is NOT medical advice: I’m a doctor, but I’m not YOUR doctor).**

So, bleach didn’t kill this poor child, asphyxia did. I don’t know if CNN was just sloppy here, or if this was intentional to make this report more dramatic. The cynic in me says the latter.

Wow, suddenly I feel like CodeBlueBlog!

* Yes, I know that in higher concentrations many of the ‘bleach’ family can be seriously toxic. That’s not what people have in their homes.

** Disclaimer shamelessly stolen from BeldarBlog, and modified accordingly.


  1. Argh. I’m writing a short story right now wherein the heroine attempts suicide by drinking Clorox. What’s the worst that could happen to her? Any other sufficiently toxic household cleaning agents?

  2. keisha says:

    How much bleach would you need to drink to no that its going to work for sure?