The Dangers of Bleach
The Dangers of Bleach
Are you among the millions of consumers who believe that because it is sold on the grocery store shelves it must be safe? Well, think again! The dangers of bleach and other cleaning products are well documented but many times ‘brushed under the rug’ for profit. Did you know that there are no regulatory agencies that monitor the products that are brought into your home? There is no Federal Drug Administration for cleaning products. And the manufacturer is even protected by trademarks and copyrights on the proprietary formulas of these products.
If you are using bleach in the work place OSHA (Occupational Safety And Health Administration), which regulates the safety of the work place, will require you use a mask and gloves to handle the chemical to protect yourself. Scientists will only handle chlorine with gloves, face masks and ventilation. Do you use these precautions at home? Were you even aware you needed to? Did you know that the Sanitation Department will not dispose of full containers of cleaners because they are classified as hazardous material? It’s time to be an informed consumer!
Chlorine is a common additive to cleaners in the home such as dishwashing detergent. Chlorine was the first agent of chemical warfare in WWI. Since that time it has been added to our water supply and other products used in the home. Remember as well, the dangers of chlorine inhalation increase in the shower as the heat aerosolizes the chlorine and allows it to be soaked into our skin as well as inhaled. That’s why if you live in town, I highly recommend a shower filter.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) recorded many exposures to household cleaning products that were serious enough to require hospitalization and physician care. The largest number of hospital occurrences in 1993 were from exposure to cleaning products such as drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, bleach and detergents.
Chlorine Bleach is a strong corrosive material. It will irritate the eyes, skin and the respiratory tract by merely inhaling the gasses. The dangers of bleach are even greater when mixing it with other cleaners. When this happens a poisonous gas is released that can cause bloody noses, neurological disorders, headaches and even death. Accidents have happened where one person adds toilet bowl cleaner and another, following behind, will inadvertently add bleach. These noxious gasses have been found to then cause fatal injuries. Household bleach, without having been mixed with other products, can cause pulmonary edema, vomiting or coma if ingested. Most cleaners also contain chlorine in a dry form. The number one cause of household poisoning is dish detergent. If swallowed it is corrosive and will permanently damage the mouth and throat and can prove to be fatal. In my opinion, the greatest dangers occur over time when there is continued unprotected use. This has an accumulative effect on the body causing a tremendous strain and stress on the major detoxification organs such as the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Because it happens so gradually over many years, often times we don’t realize it is an issue until organs start to shut down. And we may never realize these chemicals were a major culprit in our body’s inability to heal. In my clinical practice, the most astounding effects I have seen are in children. Childhood illness including asthma especially is many times linked to an underlying Chlorine toxicity. Exposure to chlorine has also been strongly linked to breast cancer. Because it kills bacteria, it also kills the beneficial bacteria which are essential for our maintenance of health…the gut flora. The truth is, the more clean you keep your house by sterilizing it with bleach, the sicker you will become…fact!
How can you protect yourself and your family? First – educate yourself. The most commonly used cleaning and personal care products used in our homes are: Milton sterilizing solution for babies bottles, Bleach cleaners, hair dye, ammonia, mould killer, hydrogen peroxide, hydrochloride in patio cleaner, surface cleaners, dishwasher tablets, washing powder and pooches, stain removeretc. Bleach is also present in swimming pools (chlorine). Bleach is used to whiten all white flour and white flour products such as bread, cakes etc. Bleach is used to whiten tea bags! The biggest consumption of bleach is done through drinking tap water in chlorinated areas. It is best to use spring water, if you can get it, or to filter your water and let it stand for a few hours before consumption.
Find safer alternatives to the corrosive materials that now reside under your sink. You’d be surprised how much cleaning and laundry you can do with baking soda, vinegar, lemon and borax! Next, minimize the use of harsh chemicals in the home and around the children. Clean up spills immediately so you aren’t tempted to pull out the bleach to clean the spots. Always store cleaning material in their original containers and keep them out of reach of children. Lock the kitchen cabinets where the dish detergents and cleaners are kept. Follow the labeled directions and use the minimal amount of the product for the job.
The dangers of bleach are significant to your health and the health of your family. There are now many alternative options and opportunities to use products that are safer, smell better and are more cost effective. The choice is yours!
What is chlorine?
Chlorine (Cl2) is among the ten highest volume chemicals manufactured in the United States. It is produced commercially by electrolysis of sodium chloride brine. Chlorine is used in industry and in household cleaning products. Chlorine was also the first poison gas to be used as a weapon during World War I.
How is chlorine used?
Chlorine has a variety of uses. It is used to disinfect water and is part of the sanitation process for sewage and industrial waste. During the production of paper and cloth, chlorine is used as a bleaching agent. It is also used in cleaning products, including household bleach which is chlorine dissolved in water. Chlorine is used in the preparation of chlorides, chlorinated solvents, pesticides, polymers, synthetic rubbers, and refrigerants.
How can people be exposed to chlorine?
Given the ubiquity and volume of chlorine in industrial and commercial locations, widespread exposures could occur from an accidental spill or release, or from a deliberate terrorist attack.
Because chlorine is a gas at room temperature, exposure occurs via inhalation. People may also be exposed to chlorine through skin or eye contact, or through ingestion of chlorine-contaminated food or water.
What is chlorine’s mechanism of action?
The health effects of chlorine are primarily due to its corrosive properties. The strong oxidizing effects of chlorine cause hydrogen to split from water in moist tissue, resulting in the release of nascent oxygen and hydrogen chloride which produce corrosive tissue damage. The oxidation of chlorine may also form hypochlorous acid, which will penetrate cells and react with cytoplasmic proteins to destroy cell structure.
What are the immediate health effects of chlorine exposure?
The health effects resulting from most chlorine exposures begin within seconds to minutes. The severity of the signs and symptoms caused by chlorine will vary according to amount, route and duration of exposure.
Inhalation: Most chlorine exposures occur via inhalation. Low level exposures to chlorine in air will cause eye/skin/airway irritation, sore throat and cough. Chlorine's odor provides adequate early warning of its presence, but also causes olfactory fatigue or adaptation, reducing awareness of one's prolonged exposure at low concentrations. At higher levels of exposure, signs and symptoms may progress to chest tightness, wheezing, dyspnea, and bronchospasm. Severe exposures may result in noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, which may be delayed for several hours.
Ingestion: Since chlorine is a gas at room temperature, it is unlikely that a severe exposure will result from ingestion. However, ingestion of chlorine dissolved in water (e.g., sodium hypochlorite or household bleach) will cause corrosive tissue damage of the gastrointestinal tract.
Eye/Dermal Contact: Low level exposures to chlorine gas will cause eye and skin irritation. Higher exposures may result in severe chemical burns or ulcerations. Exposure to compressed liquid chlorine may cause frostbite of the skin and eyes.
Children may receive a larger dose than adults exposed to environments with the same levels of chlorine gas because they have greater lung surface area-to-body weight ratios and increased minute volumes-to-weight ratios. In addition, they may be exposed to higher levels than adults in the same location because of their shorter height and the higher levels of chlorine gas that may be found nearer the ground.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms may vary depending on the degree of exposure. Exposure possibilities include acute low levels, acute high levels, and chronic low levels.
Low-level (3-5%, 1-15 ppm) acute exposure
Most poisonings fall into this category and are caused by household exposure to low-concentration cleaning products. Manifestations are as follows:
• Eye tearing, nose and throat irritation
• Excess salivation
• General excitement or restlessness
High-level (20%, >30 ppm) acute exposure
In addition to the symptoms seen with low-level exposure, high-level exposure may result in the following:
• Dyspnea: Upper airway swelling and obstruction may occur
• Violent cough
• Nausea and vomiting (with the smell of chlorine in emesis)
• Chest pain or retrosternal burning
• Muscle weakness
• Abdominal discomfort
• Dermatitis (with liquid exposure): Corneal burns and ulcerations may occur from splash exposure to high-concentration chlorine products
• Esophageal perforation
Manifestations of chronic exposure include the following:
• Acne (chloracne)
• Chest pain
• Sore throat
The following safety precautions are widely recommended:
• Dilute the chlorine bleach with water. The lower concentration poses a potentially lesser risk of unwanted exposure.
• Wear a safety mask and rubber gloves when working with bleach as a preventative measure.
• Only use chlorine bleach in a well ventilated area to allow for sufficient air flow and to prevent the unwanted gasses from remaining stationary in the working space.
• Never mix chlorine bleach with any other household cleaners.
The fourth and final recommendation is particularly worth noting because mixed with common ingredients -such as ammonia -found in many other household cleaners the fumes produced can become even more lethal and potentially fatal. Nose bleeds, neurological disorders, headaches, shortness of breath and chest pain, are just a small number of the potential side effects that can be experienced.
As helpful as these safety precautions can be, why not just stop using bleach altogether? Thankfully there are healthy alternatives to not only chlorine bleach but pretty well every toxic cleaning product out there. I can’t possibly share every alternative within this article but I would like to share a couple that I have come across and I invite you all to contribute your own findings through the comment section of the article.
Environmentally friendly cleaning products
Bleach Alternative (Source: Grit.com)
Mix 12 cups water, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 cup hydrogen peroxide. Add 2 cups per wash load or put in spray bottle and use as a household cleaner.
WhiteningScouring Powder (Source: Gaiam Life)
Combine 1 cup baking soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1/8 cup borax, 1/4 cup grated lemon, orange or grapefruit peel and mix well. Scrub using a damp sponge.
Natural Orange All-Purpose Cleaner
As a part of the March Issue of CE Magazine, Alanna from the CE Team shared with readers a great all-purpose cleaner that is safe and easy to make at home.
• Step 1: Save enough orange peels to fill a 1-liter mason jar
• Step 2: Pour in 500mL (2 Cups) of white vinegar
• Step 3: Seal the jar and let it sit in your cupboard or on your counter for 2 weeks
• Step 4: Open the jar and remove the orange peels, keeping the liquid.
• Step 5: Mix water with orange liquid solution, 4 parts water for every 1 part solution in a spray bottle. Clean away!
The Power of Baking Soda, White Vinegar & Lemon
These simple and non-corrosive or hazardous ingredients are true powerhouses when it comes to cleaning around the house. Baking soda is great for removing odors and freshening fabrics, lemon juice is fantastic for cutting through grease and white vinegar mixed with water is an awesome ammonia-free glass cleaner.
Just as we have discovered with chlorine bleach, there are always alternatives. Be sure to conduct your own research and make informed decisions about the things that you bring into your house and expose you and your loved ones to. Keep in mind that your understanding should always go beyond the label! Even cleaning products that are labelled as “natural,” “healthy,” or “organic” should always be looked into and thanks to the internet that information is most often readily available.
I’d like to finish off by sharing a brief list of particular chemicals that numerous sources within my research have posted as being important to look out for: Diethylene Glycol, Nonylphenol Ethoxylate, Ammonia, Perchloroethylene, Butyl Cellosolve, Formaldehyde, Methoxychlor, Naphthalene, Sulfuric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Chloroform, Nitrobenzene, Dried Chlorine.
If you have a chronic health issue and wish to discover the root cause, and eliminate it naturally, we specialize in root cause diagnosis in this practice. Consultations are available on line or in person. For further information please call Linda on 02866328200