How Bleach Damages the Environment and Our Health - Public Goods

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How Bleach Damages the Environment and Our Health

Most people use bleach, but perhaps only a few of them realize how much it harms the environment.

woman holding a bottle of bleach and a container of lysol disinfectant wipes

We’re here to teach you more about this controversial chemical. Maybe next time you’ll consider an alternative.

Impact on the Environment

Manufacturers that use chlorine bleach release it in water with other liquid industrial waste. When it is in the water, the chlorine mixes with other minerals and elements already in the water. This process creates 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 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. West Virginia University also conducted a study and discovered that dioxins can be associated with low sperm count, testicular cancer and breast cancer because they can mimic human hormones.

In that same study done by West Virginia University, they found cancerous cells in wildlife populations that had been exposed to bleach. 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, as well, because of dioxins.

Another problem with bleach is how a small amount of it released into water or air will gradually build up and lead to long-term health concerns. Even though it would only occur after a couple of years, the chemicals from the bleach can permanently burn human tissue internally and externally. These substances can also lighten skin pigment.

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.

The bleach’s by-products in the air eventually reach the Earth’s atmosphere and ozone layer as well. According to Audubon Magazine, bleach is associated with ozone depletion and has long-term environmental effects that impact global warming.

Impact on Human Health

According to a study from the Reach for Unbleached Foundation, the toxins from bleach can cause drastic long and short-term respiratory problems upon inhalation. When it is inhaled, it is very irritating and corrosive to the skin, lungs and eyes. The fumes from the bleach can also cause migraines, muscle weakness, abdominal discomfort, esophageal perforation, nausea and damage the nervous system.

People who have allergies or respiratory problems, such as asthma, should avoid using bleach. There are different symptoms that can occur such as stinging sensations in the eyes and nose, coughing and shortness of breath.

Fumes from the bleach can also linger in homes that are poorly ventilated. The air indoors then becomes polluted with toxins, endangering the health of everyone in the house.

Try a Healthy, Sustainable Alternative

If you want to avoid any health or environmental hazards, there are many natural alternatives to bleach. It’s not our only option to clean or disinfect anything. Some of these products are lemon essential oil, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and citric acid.

The products you buy may not be as safe as you think. Next time, before buying a cleaning product, you should stop and ask yourself if bleach is worth the risk.

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