Chlorine-based bleaches are commonly found in many household cleaning products that are used to whiten laundry, sanitize surfaces and eliminate mold and mildew. While its disinfecting properties may seem to contribute to a healthier indoor environment, this chemical is harmful to human health and the planet. Before you open that next bottle of bleach, it is important to understand just how hazardous it can be.
Mild Effects Can Turn Serious
Some of the health hazards of chlorine bleach are mild and can include watery eyes, skin irritation and breathing problems – coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Many people may have experienced these effects at some point while cleaning in enclosed spaces and poorly ventilated areas, such as bathrooms. However, while these symptoms typically go away after a thorough flushing with water, the exposure to chlorine may have long-term effects. Studies now suggest that adverse health affects are often found in individuals continuously exposed to chlorine bleach through inhalation and skin absorption.
Mixing Household Bleach and Other Products Can be Lethal
Many household cleaners contain chlorine bleach to help kill bacteria, eliminate stains and remove grime from various home surfaces. While moderate symptoms include irritation to the eyes, skin and lungs, there are far more serious consequences, such as fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). When mixed with other products, either intentionally or accidentally, the chlorine emits a poisonous gas that when inhaled, can cause neurological problems and potential death. Consumers who are unaware of this may add bleach to a toilet bowl after adding another cleaner; inadvertently creating highly toxic fumes. Mixing bleach with ammonia, drain cleaners or scouring powder, as well as with natural acidic cleaners like vinegar can also be dangerous.
Inadvertent Pollution Is Common
Household cleaners are not the only problem; it is also washing machines and dishwashers. As many dishwashing detergents and laundry products contain chlorine, when these devices are turned on the chlorine becomes airborne in a process called volatilization. Those in the household then breathe in the chlorine-contaminated air. Scented laundry bleach is particularly dangerous, because it makes the scent of chlorine pleasant, which can disguise the harmful health effects.
Industrial bleaching agents also have serious environmental impacts. Once the compounds reach water, chlorine reacts with other minerals and elements to form an array of dangerous toxins, such as dioxin. Theses toxins linger in our eco-systems, are extremely harmful to aquatic and wildlife, as well as takes years to dissipate.
Protect yourself and family from the health hazardous of bleach by switching to less corrosive materials. You will be surprised at how well you can tackle cleaning chores with common ingredients, like vinegar and baking soda, found in your cupboard. Hydrogen peroxide is also a great whitening alternative due to its oxidization properties. Not only are these products safe for human health and the environment, but they are cost effective too!