Many people over-use bleach because of the cultural idea that the whiter things are, the cleaner they are. Among other items, this may apply to clothes, sheets, bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and dishes.
It seems like a convenient chemical that can be used for quite a few purposes, and it is- the problem is that bleach has negative effects on both human/animal health and the environment as a whole. There are two main categories of bleach: chlorine based and non-chlorine based.
Chlorine bleach is the most commonly purchased type, and is usually the most harmful. Bleach usually acts as an oxidizing agent in order to whiten things, but not always. The main harmful ingredient in chlorine-based bleach is called sodium hypochlorite.
Common Bleach Types
- Sodium hypochlorite
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Calcium hypochlorite
- Calcium peroxide
Bleach is sometimes the easiest solution to a problem, and many of the ill effects it causes occur over time. However, even occasional bleach use may be unwise. Did you know that government regulations by the Occupational Safety And Healthy Administration for bleach use in the workplace require that employees wear gloves and goggles/masks, and that the area be well ventilated?
It is a strong carcinogen according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and may cause asthma in those who are exposed to it as children. Certain countries have laws that limit the use of chlorine-based bleach because of just how harmful it is proven to be.
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that exposure to dioxin, a toxic byproduct of sodium hypochlorite, significantly increases the risk of long-term issues like diabetes, respiratory disease, lung cancer, and lymphoma.
Common Side Effects
- Respiratory irritation
- Stinging of the eyes
- Burning of the skin
Recurrent or prolonged exposure to bleach can lead to far worse effects, including but not limited to scarring of the airway, nervous system damage, cancer, asthma, birth defects, and potentially death. The cancer-causing effects of bleach and chlorine have been proven in many scientific experiments and studies. It’s actually pretty scary to think about just how often you’re exposed to bleach.
White grains like bread are chemically bleached during production, most packaged water has chlorine in it, swimming pools are often treated with bleach and/or chlorine, many white clothing items are bleached; printer paper, baby diapers, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, notebook paper, and tissues are all commonly bleached, too. Simply wearing bleached clothing is bad for us, and it can cause skin and respiratory problems over time.
Most of the items that are commercially bleached simply do not need to be, and as for the household, there are plenty of other products that are less harmful to people, animals, and the environment. There are also simple recipes online for creating homemade, eco-friendly, inexpensive, and safe cleaners.
Effects On The Environment
- Bleach is often disposed of wrongly, such as down sink drains, rather than being treated like the harsh, caustic chemical that it is. This results in water pollution. Chlorine bleach can be very reactive, and it often produces other toxic molecules in the water. Some of these are extremely harmful and may take a long time to dissipate.
- Air pollution is also a result of the over-use of chlorine bleach. It is significantly harmful to inhale bleach fumes, and while chemicals in the air do dissipate over large areas of space, they still build up in the atmosphere. The effects of bleach air pollution are especially prominent near factories that produce or use bleach every day, and for people, plants, and animals that are exposed to it frequently.
- Among other chemicals, dioxin is responsible for damage to wildlife. It has led to the decline in many populations of animals like fish and birds, and when populations of animals start to disappear, it often has a domino effect on the animals higher up the food chain. Some of the chemicals that are created in the water because of bleach are so corrosive that they can cause gene mutations in animals.
- Obviously, the fact that animals are exposed to these chemicals is a huge problem- but it gets worse. Because these chemicals linger in the water, their levels are building up over time. These negative effects will continue to get worse until chlorine bleach stops being used as often as it is. The problems that dioxin and other chlorine-derived toxins cause in fish and other wildlife will cause more harm to humans as time goes on.
- A 2010 scientific article in the Chemosphere journal demonstrated that exposure to sodium hypochlorite triggered oxidative stress in fish; oxidative stress causes cell death and damage throughout the body.
Safer Bleach Alternatives
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Baking Soda
- Lemon Juice
- White vinegar
Homemade bleach recipes often involved a few of the above ingredients mixed together.
There are so many varieties out there, but hydrogen peroxide mixed with with lemon juice is especially common.
Making your own cleaners is always a great idea, but if you aren’t able to, then some of the non-chlorine based bleach varieties may be suitable. Some are made with hydrogen peroxide as the main active ingredient, and may not be much worse than a homemade kind. Just be sure that you don’t over-use it!
Related Article – 8 Toxic Household Products You Should Get Rid Of
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.
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