Did you know household bleach has been linked to a number of serious health issues? Find out 5 reasons to avoid chlorine bleach and safer options to use instead.
Did you know… in 2010, poison control centers in the US received more than 110,000 phone calls about household cleaner accidents involving children under the age of five?1
In fact, more than 10,000 children under the age of five were admitted to the emergency room in 2006 alone and needed some kind of medical treatment – in which nearly 750 children had symptoms that were life-threatening or resulted in a disability.1
That’s staggering to realize. Think about how many homes in America have bleach or cleaners that contain bleach under sinks and in laundry rooms.
What is Bleach?
For centuries, people harnessed the power of the sun to whiten or “bleach” clothes. Sunlight acts as a bleach through a process that breaks down the bonds in the chromophore – as a result of the high-energy photons of light. Hydrogen peroxide is another example of a mild whitener or “bleach” that can be used in the home – and a safer alternative to chlorine bleach.
Chlorine bleach (also known as sodium hypochlorite) does the same thing as the sun chemically, as do other forms of chemical bleach, including sodium hypochlorite (typically used to sanitize swimming pools) and calcium hypochlorite (bleaching powder). It is used for household use for cleaning and whitening.
The problem with chlorine bleach, in particular, is that it can cause irritation in the eyes, mouth, lungs and skin through exposure and lead to serious health issues. Keep reading to find out more.
5 Reasons to Avoid Chlorine Bleach
1. Bleach is dangerous if swallowed
Bleach and household cleaners are often left under sinks or laundry rooms where children have easy access to them. Swallowing chlorine bleach can burn the mouth, throat, stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Ingesting large amounts of bleach could result in intestinal bleeding.
Many children are admitted to the emergency room each year for accidental poisonings because bleach and other cleaners with bleach are within reach and have brightly colored labels and bottles that make it attractive to kids.
2. Bleach may cause asthma
A number of studies that show a clear connection between toxic cleaning supplies, like bleach, and the development of asthma in people who had never had previous signs of it.1
And for those who already have asthma, bleach can aggravate symptoms because it irritates the lungs.1
3. Bleach may cause respiratory damage
Those who use bleach four or more times a week are more likely to suffer from wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and other respiratory issues compared to non-bleach users.1
Think about that. Whether you clean your home or have a housekeeper (who is exposed to probably daily use of bleach), that’s a lot of exposure. It’s not just bleach for laundry – it’s also any household cleaner with bleach in it. Think about schools or daycare centers that use bleach to clean floors, desks, bathrooms, toys, etc. Our families are exposed to bleach and cleaners made with bleach all the time.
4. Bleach mixed with other cleaners can produce toxic gases
Chlorine bleach can also react with other common household cleaners like ammonia or vinegar to produce toxic gases.2 Many people unknowingly use a toilet bowl cleaner or other household cleaner (not knowing there’s ammonia or vinegar in it) and then use chlorine bleach to disinfect and get exposed to that toxic gas.
In fact, mixing bleach with ammonia or ammonia-based cleaners (think rust removers, and even glass cleaner) can create high concentrations of chlorine gas – which can cause asthma after a single exposure. That’s scary.1
5. Bleach can burn skin
Chemicals burns from bleach can occur with exposure to bleach – especially over a prolonged period. These burns are painful to the skin and eyes, and can cause permanent damage or scarring.1 These burns could happen just from use of bleach or cleaners without gloves or accidental spilling.
Think about how a mother may use bleach to clean tubs or tiles, or even in the laundry room with a child nearby. An accidental spill could cause serious injury.
Safer Alternatives to Bleach
Now that you know the health risks of chlorine bleach, it’s easy to see why it should be avoided.
So what can you use instead? There are safer alternatives to clean and whiten without harsh chemical cleaners.
Natural Bleach Alternatives
Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution you can find at most drug stores) is a non-toxic “bleach” or whitener that doesn’t have the same harsh side effects as chlorine bleach. It can be used for tubs and tile, grout and laundry. It is non-toxic and can be used topically as a sanitizer and disinfectant too.
Lemon juice is a natural lightener. When combined with hydrogen peroxide and essential oils, it can be a DIY natural bleach alternative. It also works great with baking soda to whiten and sanitize tubs and tile.
Baking soda is one of my all-time favorite natural whiteners (check out 30 uses for baking soda). I add it to my laundry to boost the whitening effects and use it as as homemade soft scrub cleaner for my countertops and sinks.
Essential oils are great for cleaning – especially when combined with baking soda or hydrogen peroxide. It can help to naturally fight stains and gently whiten surfaces and fabrics. Learn more about what essential oils to start with here.
Thieves Household Cleaner is made with the Thieves essential oil blend and other biodegradable and non-toxic surface cleaners. It works really well on tubs and tile. It’s fantastic in the laundry too. Here are 20 ways to clean the home with Thieves Household Cleaner.
1. Cleaning Supplies and Your Health, Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/cleaners_and_health
2. Bleach, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleach
Feature photo credit: DepositPhotos.com / tobkatrina
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