More and more household chemicals are being replaced with greener options. More and more people are learning just how bad our cleaning supplies are for us and our environment. However, few of us realize that even bleach, a household chemical frequently used for generations is a horrible product. Chlorine based bleach (there are some oxygen based bleaches that don't fall into the same category) are really bad for you, your family, your pets, and the environment!

Health Issues.
Bleach isn't a safe option for eliminating germs. While the commercials would have you believe that bleach and the products it is in are a great way to keep your family healthier, there are actually a number of health issues related to bleach. Bleach and the products it is in often cause respiratory issues (even ones that are common and treated with medications). It can also cause burns to the skin and even nervous system damage. Allergies and asthma are often irritated by bleach and can cause serious reactions in those who have problems with these conditions already. These are the things that bleach does when first used!

Potential Chemical Reactions. Many chemicals cause initial problems (such as those listed above), however that isn't where the danger of the chemical stops. Chlorine bleach is a product that causes some issues on its own, but it has some really dangerous potential reactions with other chemicals and materials.

  • Gas- Chlorine easily has chemical reactions with ammonia and urine (which is primarily ammonia). This causes a gas which can cause harm to the person breathing it in and can even cause death. Mixing of chlorine bleach often happens on purpose with cleaners, on accidents with left over cleaners, and even on accident when bleaching the toilet (where urine may be lurking). Large amounts of the gas is easily visible, but small doses can go unnoticed and cause a great deal of harm, especially were there is poor ventilation.
  • Mustard Gas- Mustard gas is the chemical that was used in the trenches during World War I. It worked well because it was lethal and had some fairly quick reacting side effects. This gas is easy to create. All you need to do is mix bleach and common household dish detergent (soap). A lot of people do it for "strong" cleaners and for disinfecting dishes!
  • Chloroform- Bleach also mixes with organic matter (of several different types) to produce chloroform. Chloroform is a toxin and a known carcinogen. Mixing bleach with organics is easy to do while cleaning up blood, mud, pet accidents, and the bathroom. It is also easy to do while washing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and the floors. However, the danger of this toxin doesn't stop there. Chlorine bleach is released into the environment where it readily mixes with a whole world of organic products producing chloroform which then builds up in the environment.

Toxins.
Bleach isn't toxic on its own. But because it mixes so easily with so many other products to produce a wide range of toxins, this is an issue that many of us should be concerned about. Many of the chemicals produced through chemical reactions with chlorine bleach are toxins that are known carcinogens. These chemicals build up in the environment, get into the water and food supply, and increase our risk for many negative health issues. While you cutting out bleach isn't going to be enough to make the world a better place, every little bit helps and your family will be safer for it.

Accidents. Poison control is available if there are accidents with chemicals. Each year thousands of calls are made for help and of those calls about 1/4th of them are related to bleach and the household cleaners that contain them. Many of these accidents involve children and can be potentially fatal.

Pets. Many animals are more susceptible to the fumes that bleach produces, especially when it is producing gases made from chemical reactions. Birds can easily die from the use of bleach, but they aren't alone in the dangers. Other animals can find themselves with a lung full of fumes and not be able to recover from it.

The Environment. While it would seem that potential dangers to your health, the health of those you love (including your pets), and the knowledge that dangerous toxins were being produced would be enough to eliminate bleach from your life forever, if it isn't then consider Mother Earth. The toxins that bleach can create through chemical reactions build up in the environment, kill fish, harm animals, get in the water and food supply, and eventually get back to us!

There are a huge number of reasons that people should eliminate bleach. It doesn't have a place in our society and many non-bleach cleaners can do everything just as well without the dangers. Consider the following:
  1. Disinfecting- Use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your home. It kills germs, isn't dangerous, and can be used all over the house.
  2. Killing mold and mildew- My mom always bleached mold and mildew that seemed to accumulate in the bathroom, but Listerine (which is safe and made from alcohol and essential oils) can kill these things, smells great, and is safe!
  3. Whitening your clothes- Bleach is often used to whiten and brighten clothes. Instead of using bleach add a 1/2 cup of vinegar and a 1/2 cup of baking soda to your wash. Your clothes will be brighter then ever, stains will disappear, and you will be doing your family and the environment a favor.
  4. Floors- Use a couple of cups of vinegar to clean your floors. It will disinfect and is going to clean great. If you can't stand the smell then add 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of lemon juice or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your vinegar and let it set for 24 hours before you add it to your mop water. Mop as normal, but know that you are getting floors just as clean or cleaner without the dangers of harsh chemicals.
  5. All purpose cleaner- Use 1/2 bottle of vinegar and 1/2 bottle of water with a few drops of your favorite essential oil in it for an all purpose cleaner that is safe to use anywhere and cleans well!

Many people don't understand just how dangerous bleach is to people, animals, and the environment. We need to take steps each and every day to eliminate it from our lives so that our future will continue to look bright. Even a single person can make a difference!