Most of us have been raised to reach for the bleach when it comes to brightening white clothes, stain removal, disinfecting objects in our homes - including children's toys, cleaning dirty floors and other surfaces. Of course, bleach achieves these seemingly harmless goals; however, the story does not stop there. While bleach may get your clothes looking bright, it can paint a pretty dingy picture when it comes to your health.
Bleach is considered a chlorine-based corrosive substance and the label should tell you so. Even bleach that has been diluted can cause skin burns and irritation, and damage many home surfaces. Since this chemical is powerful enough to kill even the worst bacteria, it makes sense that it poses a danger to those who use it, and to anyone exposed to it.
Bleach is particularly harmful to infants, young children and pets because their immune systems cannot fight off the harsh chemicals. Exposure to bleach can irritate the nose, eyes, skin and lungs. Serious side effects of using bleach can include respiratory problems, skin burns, damage to the nervous system, asthma flares, extreme headaches, migraines and vomiting. The most serious hazard of bleach to our bodies is that when mixed with ammonia, vinegar or any other acid-type cleaning material, the mixture can cause dangerous toxic fumes to be emitted into the air. These toxins can cause serious, sometimes deadly, side effects when inhaled. Bleach is toxic to people, animals and the environment.
Bleach is a known contributor to water pollution. When bleach makes its way into our water system, it reacts with other minerals and elements to create a variety of dangerous toxins that can take many years to dissipate. Dioxin is just one of the most dangerous by-products of bleach and chlorine-based cleaning supplies; and it is the most frightening environmentally because dioxins to not break down, but remain in the ground for many years. Researchers think that dioxin can contribute to cancer, endocrine disorders, and other serious health problems including low sperm count, testicular and breast cancer, and mimicking human hormones. Just think of the hazards this chemical poses to our air quality and precious wildlife.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has banned the use of bleach in restaurants, schools and hospitals, because of all the hazards. We should be doing the same in our homes, in other words, "bag the bleach".
There are numerous earth-friendly alternatives to bleach: baking soda, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice and oil, borax and sodium hydrosulphite are all good substitutes for cleaning. Each of these time-tested, simple solutions can whiten and clean your clothes, floors and surfaces as well as bleach without environmental and health hazards.