Bleach is a household chemical commonly used for whitening and disinfecting, and most bleach options contain sodium hypochlorite as an active ingredient. Bleach has proven its usefulness in eliminating bacteria, mildew, and mold within our homes, but it has also proven to be harmful to our health.
5 Ways Bleach is Harming Your Health
Bleach affects our health in a variety of ways, and below are five of these ways.
1. Chemical Interactions
A large danger that bleach poses to your health is its potential interactions with other chemicals. On its own, bleach can be harmful, but when mixed with other chemicals, it can be deadly. Some of the potentially toxic chemicals that can be created from bleach interactions are:
- Bleach and vinegar can create toxic chlorine gas
- Bleach and ammonia, which produce chloramine vapors
- Bleach and rubbing alcohol, which makes chloroform
These are not the only chemical interactions that bleach can produce. Many interactions produce chloramine gas, which can disrupt the renal system, central nervous system, and immune system and cause chest pain, fluid buildup in the lungs, and shortness of breath.
As unlikely as it may seem, accidental consumption of bleach is possible. It can be left as residue on counters and other high-touch surfaces, and it may have somehow come in contact with plates and cutlery. Some individuals use bleach to clean equipment or food prep areas, and this increases the risk of chemical contamination.
Bleach is highly corrosive and, when accidentally consumed, can wreak havoc on your stomach and GI tract. Side effects of bleach ingestion are vomiting, burning, long-term damage to the stomach, damage to the lining of the stomach, and death.
As we use bleach, we are exposed to the vapors that it releases. As we breathe in these vapors, our respiratory system can be affected. Those who are afflicted with asthma and other respiratory ailments are susceptible to the side effects of inhaling these vapors, but everyone can be affected. Bleach can affect and irritate the mucous membranes in your mouth, nose, and lungs.
The inhalation of bleach can lead to coughing and discomfort and can lead to either acute or long-term chronic chemical pneumonitis, which can stiffen the lungs and cause respiratory failure.
Not only is bleach bad for our skin, but it is a major pollutant to our air and waterways, both of which affect us.
- Air Pollutant: Not many know, but indoor air pollution is far worse than outdoor air pollution, and the chemicals we use for cleaning contribute to that. When bleach is used, its vapors are released into the air. If you are not cleaning in a well-ventilated area, you are regularly inhaling those vapors, which is not good for your health. Bleach is also terrible for outdoor air because its byproducts are released into the air and contribute to ozone depletion. Purchasing bleach contributes to the outputs that chemical factories create, which in turn can significantly contribute to pollution.
- Water Pollutant: When we use bleach in our homes or places of work, eventually, the bleach is dumped or washed down a drain. Not all of the components are removed in waste treatment facilities, which means what’s left over is sent into waterways. Not only does this affect the water pH and the wildlife, but some polluted bodies of water are where we get our resources, so at some point, we may end up ingesting them. When manufacturing bleach, the manufacturer also has hazardous runoff that ends up in groundwater and other bodies of water, which we are at risk of consuming.
5. Improper Use
There is also the chance that we are improperly using bleach within our homes. On the labeling, for bleach to work properly, the bleached surface needs to be wet for 10 to 20 minutes to be effective. Also, bleach needs to be heavily diluted to be used in our homes, but it’s challenging to figure out the correct ratios. Using too much bleach results and a higher exposure, and too little bleach lessens its effectiveness and unnecessarily exposes us.
Effects on the Body
Besides what has been mentioned above, bleach can have different effects on the body.
- Eyes: Bleach may come in contact with our eyes if it is splattered or if we’ve touched our contaminated hands to our eyes. Immediately after contact, bleach causes discomfort and will form a harmful acid by combining it with the natural liquids within the eyes. If bleach is not rinsed out immediately, there is the potential to lose eyesight or develop corneal ulcers.
- Skin: Touching bleach with our bare skin can cause general discomfort, along with burning and itchiness. When exposed for too long, bleach can cause hyperpigmentation. In order to avoid this, you can use nitrile gloves from Primo Dental Products. It can greatly help in protecting your skin.
- Mouth: There have been reports of individuals using small amounts of household bleach to whiten teeth. These individuals are not informed of the effects that it can have on the mouth and throat. Bleach can damage and soften mouth tissues, which can result in tooth loss altogether. Not to mention that accidental consumption is dangerous.
Fortunately, bleach is not the only cleaning option we have on hand. There are bleach alternatives, most of which can be found in your cupboards, that are not only safer for your health but work just as efficiently as bleach.
White vinegar may be the most popular option for natural cleaning. It has many useful characteristics to it and can be paired with other natural cleaning products, like the products offered by Grab Green Home. Vinegar can be used for cleaning, deodorizing, and much more.
Baking soda is a common natural alternative to bleach and other cleaning products. It provides a mild abrasion, which can help make scrubbing easier and less work. Baking soda pairs very well with vinegar, which gives it extra scrubbing power. Baking soda dissolves in water and is very safe for the environment.
Soap and Water
Regular soap and water, like the kind you use for washing your hands or washing your dishes, are also great options for cleaning. If they are safe enough for usage on your hands, which come in contact with various different surfaces, then soap and water are good enough for cleaning your home.
There are devices that use steam vapor to help clean your home. These systems only use water that is heated to a high temperature so that it creates steam. This helps to kill more germs and has proven more effective than bleach, and it also lacks the chemical interactions, ingredients, health impacts, and environmental impacts that bleach can potentially cause.
Now that you are aware of the different ways bleach can harm you and your loved ones, it’s time to start turning to natural cleaning alternatives.