Bleach. Just reading the word probably made your nose turn up at the thought of its harsh scent. From bathrooms to linens, bleach has been a popular household staple for generations. But in many cases, the many dangers of bleach outweigh the benefits. If bleach is part of your regular cleaning routine, you might want to consider swapping it out for an alternative that works just as well (or even better!) without all of the negative effects.
What is Bleach?
Although we often use the term “bleach” as if it was only one substance, it actually refers to a group of compounds that are used in a variety of ways.
The most popular type of bleach is common household chlorine bleach, which is a water-based product that contains a chemical called sodium hypochlorite. Another type of bleach is oxygen bleach, which contains hydrogen peroxide or other compounds that release peroxide when mixed with water. Bleach also comes as a powder in the form of a chemical called calcium hypochlorite.
What is Bleach Used For?
Bleach is primarily used to lighten and or whiten fabrics and surfaces, clean and disinfect surfaces, to kill algae, mold, and mildew. Depending on the use, bleach is often diluted with water in various concentrations.
Why is Bleach Harmful?
While bleach has been found in many household cupboards for generations, the dangers of bleach might make you think twice before using it in your home.
If you have small children in your home, be aware of the risks of accidental poisoning. In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, over a 16-year period, more than 250,000 children under 5 were rushed to the ER for household cleaner exposure. The most common exposure was bleach, either through ingestion or spray bottle accidents. Children under 3 were found to be particularly at risk. Keeping bleach and other harsh chemicals out of reach of children is smart planning for parents with young children.
Bleach exposure can also be toxic to pets. Since animals are curious by nature, they’re often getting into things they shouldn’t. Say, for example, you’re mopping the floor with a bleach solution and leave the room for a moment. Your dog or cat may lick the wet floor, or even take a drink from the mop bucket. And even after the floors have dried, your pet may still get sick from licking it; bleach residue is still toxic even when it’s dry. While small quantities of diluted bleach aren’t usually fatal for pets, they are certainly irritating. Bleach can irritate an animal’s stomach and esophagus, where lesions may form, which can take weeks or even months to heal. The hydrogen peroxide found in oxygen-based bleach products can induce vomiting in small amounts and can cause more serious internal damage in larger amounts.
According to a recent study on lung function in female nonsmokers in China, the toxins from bleach can cause drastic long and short-term respiratory problems upon inhalation. When bleach is inhaled, it’s very irritating and corrosive to the skin, lungs, and eyes. The fumes from bleach can also cause stinging sensations in the eyes and nose, coughing, shortness of breath, migraines, muscle weakness, abdominal discomfort, esophageal perforation, nausea, and damage the nervous system. Children are at greater risk from breathing bleach vapors because their lungs are still developing.
Another study conducted by the University of Bergen in Norway, and published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that women who work as cleaners, or who regularly clean the family home using conventional bleach and ammonia-based cleaning sprays or other products, have a greater decline in lung health over time than women who do not clean. In fact, researchers estimated that the amount of lung function these women lost was roughly equivalent to smoking a whole pack of cigarettes every day. Those who were exposed even more often than that experienced more severe lung decline.
People who have allergies or respiratory problems, such as asthma or COPD, should always avoid using bleach as it can trigger an asthma attack or irritation.
When using bleach inside a home that is poorly ventilated, the air indoors becomes polluted with toxins, endangering the health of everyone in the house.
In Case of Bleach Poisoning:
- Call Poison Control: 1 (800) 222-1222
- If you get bleach on your skin or in your eyes, flush the area with running water for a minimum of 15 minutes.
- If you accidentally swallow bleach, drink milk or water immediately, unless you experience vomiting or convulsions.
- If you inhale bleach, seek fresh air immediately.
- If you get bleach on your clothes, take off your clothing without rubbing into the skin, and wash immediately separately from the rest of your clothes.
Bleach is More Toxic if Mixed With Other Chemicals
Bleach is highly-reactive when combined with other chemicals. When mixed with ingredients in many common household cleaners (for example, ammonia-based glass cleaner), the results can be serious or even fatal. If you aren’t sure which ingredients you’re using to clean, inadvertently mixing them can be a dangerous mistake.
We’ve discussed this topic at length here.
Environmental Effects of Chlorine Bleach
In addition to the adverse health effects, bleach has been known to be a polluter to our environment. Manufacturers that use chlorine bleach often release it in our waters along with other liquid industrial waste. When it’s in the water, the chlorine bleach mixes with other minerals and elements already in the water, which results in the production of new toxins.
The toxins include dioxins, furans, and PCDDs called “persistent organic pollutants” named as such because they stay in water and can take a few years until they completely disappear.
Greenpeace claims that dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals in history, and warns others that it can contribute to cancer, endocrine disorders, and other health risks. Dioxins are also one of the reasons why bald eagles almost went endangered in the 1970s. There are less fish and bird species near the Great Lake because of dioxins.
Factories that use bleach release toxins into the air through the ventilation and exhaust processes. Some parts of the chlorine, along with other byproducts, stay in the air, creating more pollution. These bleach by-products in the air eventually reach the Earth’s atmosphere and ozone layer as well. According to a report by Audubon Magazine, bleach is associated with ozone depletion and has long-term environmental effects that impact global warming.
There is a Better Way.
While it may be necessary to use chlorine bleach in your swimming pool, you don’t need to use it in order to have a clean home. With all of the risks of using bleach, it makes sense to consider safer cleaning products that are free from harsh chemicals. And that’s exactly why we’ve created Vital Oxide.
We believe that cleaning shouldn’t be a hazard.
Vital Oxide is an all-purpose cleaner, EPA-registered hospital disinfectant, mold and mildew killer, allergen eliminator, and food-contact sanitizer. It has no sulfates, phthalates, dyes, allergens, ammonia, or bleach. Instead, Vital Oxide harnesses the power of oxygen – in the form of stabilized chlorine dioxide – to create a fast-acting, environmentally-friendly, effective broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. And while it has chlorine in its name, it’s very different from chlorine bleach. Unlike bleach, which has a harsh odor and forms trihalomethanes when mixed with water, making it extremely corrosive – chlorine dioxide breaks down into simple salt, making it much less corrosive to surfaces and more versatile in a variety of application situations.
Vital Oxide earns the lowest toxicity level that the EPA gives for pesticide (disinfectant) applications – Category 4 – which means that you don’t need to wear a mask, gloves, or any other personal protection equipment while applying it for general use. Chlorine bleach, however, is a Category 1 on the EPA toxicity rating system: highly toxic and corrosive to skin, eyes, and surfaces.
With Vital Oxide, you don’t have to worry about exposing your loved ones to harsh chemicals.Learn more about the science behind our product, as well as tons of great tips on cleaning, disinfecting, and more. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We’re here to help.