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Chemical pneumonitis

  • Definition

    Chemical pneumonitis is inflammation of the lungs or breathing difficulty due to inhaling chemical fumes or breathing in and choking on certain chemicals.


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Many household and industrial chemicals are capable of producing both an acute and a chronic form of inflammation in the lungs.

    Some of the most common dangerous, inhaled substances include:

    • Chlorine gas (during use of cleaning materials such as chlorine bleach, in industrial accidents, or near swimming pools)
    • Grain and fertilizer dust
    • Noxious fumes from pesticides
    • Smoke (from house fires and wildfires)

    Chronic chemical pneumonitis can occur after only low levels of exposure to the irritant over extended periods of time. This causes inflammation and may lead to stiffness of the lungs, which decreases the ability of the lungs to get oxygen to the body. Unchecked, this condition may ultimately lead to respiratory failure and death.

    Chronic aspiration of acid from the stomach can also lead to chemical pneumonitis.