Bleach: The Facts

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So seeing as my last ‘The Facts’ blog received so much interest, I’m off writing my next one! And here it is. As ever, the aim of these blogs is to condense factual information into one easy read article for you lovely people. But, seeing as it’s me, there will be some opinions throughout – but they will be clearly marked and come with fair warning! ready? Here we go…

Bleach. What is it?

I turn to my old friend the English Oxford Dictionary! I expected my search for the word ‘bleach’ to come back with some crazy chemical compound I had never heard of, made through some process I would have come to expect from comic book characters such as the Joker from Batman (anyone here remember the old PC game where you mixed the make up and beauty chemicals in a lab to discover how the Joker was poisoning everyone? No? Just me? Moving on…)

But I didn’t. This is the definition I was faced with: “Cause a material to become white or much lighter by a chemical process or by exposure to sunlight”. So chemicals are mentioned, but the actual meaning is to make something look whiter.

So let me re-phrase my question. “What chemical is bleach made from?”

Bleach is made from a chemical compound that works by adding oxygen to a stain or other chemical compound. The bleach separates the particles of the stain by introducing oxygen and removes them from the surface they are attached to. Washing will speed up this process. That doesn’t sound too bad to me? At this point I’m thinking I may have misunderstood our dear friend bleach and dismissed it from my home without a fair trial. So my research deepens…

Further reading leads me to discover that bleach is not considered corrosive or toxic. Wowza! Feeling guilty now for the bum deal I have given bleach in the past. However, I do discover that bleach can cause irritation to the eyes, mouth, nose and skin. So it’s far from ideal and (in my opinion) can be placed in the same camp as our dear friend SLS. Especially as it can burn human tissue internally and externally. Let’s continue.

So I looked up the ingredients in a well known brand of toilet cleaner and discovered one of the main ingredients was chlorine bleach. Back to my dictionary!

Chlorine Bleach: “Any of various types of bleach in which the active component is a chlorine compound”. I’m starting to think I’m researching the wrong product. So let’s temporarily take a look at chlorine and see what we can find…

Remember that crazy chemical compound definition I was expecting earlier? Well I found it. “The chemical element of atomic number 17, a toxic, irritant, pale green gas”. Yowza – that definition is to the point isn’t it??

Is chlorine bleach dangerous?

As I write this I realise that although bleach needs to be discussed, it is in fact more important to take a look at the cleaning products we use around the home that have chlorine bleach as an ingredient. Because when chlorine bleach is mixed with an acid (such as those found in toilet cleaners, window cleaners and drain cleaners) it gives off chlorine gas. I’ve often spoken about the hideous smell that I believed to given off by bleach. But it isn’t. It’s given off by chlorine bleach which is found in numerous everyday cleaning products around your home. Even at low levels, these products will make you cough, give you burning watery eyes, breathing problems and a runny nose. far from ideal for an asthma sufferer.

At this point I feel the need to say, DO NOT EVER MIX YOUR CLEANING PRODUCTS. Your home will basically become a chemistry lab. (Obviously my opinion – but an opinion I just can’t keep to myself as I care about my readers).

So my blog started out as an investigation into one product, bleach, and has ended up looking at a different one, chlorine bleach.

Chlorine bleach undoubtedly (in my opinion) is not a friendly chemical to have in your home. Warnings such as “open windows” and “keep area well ventilated” I’m assuming are referring to chlorine gas. My worst experience with the burning sensations in the throat, the coughing and eyes watering are from using well known mould and mildew killers. Anyone who has used them will know that the smell is vile and the warnings on the packet are bluntly written. I think what shocks me at this point is how despite these warnings, these products are put up for sale freely in our supermarkets. They rely on people to read the warnings and follow instructions. Hands up if you have ever just used a product without reading the instructions? I have. But this research is making me consider my use of products in a whole different light. People often say to me “why are these products available if they are dangerous to our health?” It’s a question I can’t answer, but I imagine that the companies producing these chemically based products will use the disclaimer that instructions and warnings are placed on the packaging.

In conclusion… (HUGE opinion warning)

Many people have faith and respect in these companies to keep us safe and our houses clean. Let alone the millions of people who are unable to read or who cannot comprehend the importance of these warnings. I didn’t. This whole use of chemicals is based on assumption. The assumption from the company that we as a population understand the risks involved. And the assumption from the population that a large company would not put our health at risk. Brilliant.

I’ll certainly be placing a huge amount of consideration into which cleaning products I buy in the future. Especially chlorine bleach.

Thanks for reading,

Danielle

References:

http://www.enoxforddictionaries.com

http://www.madehow.com

tesco.com

beyondtoxics.org

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