Bleach is a chemical we often use to sterilize and whiten everything from our clothing to our countertops, so we’re in contact with it quite a bit in our everyday lives.
This chemical, however, can be hazardous not only to our health, but to the health of our children as well. When inhaled, the corrosive qualities in bleach can cause some serious health issues.
A recent study in Europe has revealed that children who were regularly exposed to environments cleaned with bleach had an increased rate of respiratory tract infections.
“We should be aware that some of the products (like bleach) that we use in our homes for cleaning are chemicals that may have also some effect on our health and also on our children’s health,” said Lidia Casas of the Center for Environment and Health in Belgium, who led the study.
The research team who conducted this study contacted the parents of over 9,000 children between the ages of 6 and 12 who attended schools in Finland, Spain and the Netherlands.
They administered a questionnaire inquiring about the frequency in which their children had experienced respiratory infections such as the flu, bronchitis or pneumonia in a one-year span.
The survey also asked if the parents used bleach to clean their homes at least once a week. The researchers then inquired with certain schools about their bleach use when cleaning.
The results: Bleach was most commonly used in Spain, where 75% of households used it to clean their homes on a weekly basis. Bleach was used least often in Finland, where only 7% of households cleaned with it.
Similar results were found among the schools they researched, with all Spanish schools surveyed using bleach to clean, while none of the Finnish schools used bleach.
Across the three countries, the children in bleach-cleaned environments were more likely to experience recurring respiratory infections. Children in homes utilizing bleach to clean their homes were more likely to get the flu at least once a year and were also more likely to get recurring tonsillitis.
In Finland, children in bleach-cleaned homes were more likely to get tonsillitis and sinusitis than kids in homes that didn’t use bleach. Dutch children exposed to bleach-cleaned environments were more likely to have gotten the flu during a one-year span.
Dutch children in schools using bleach were more likely to have multiple recurring infections.
Casas explained that if bleach exposure is contributing to respiratory infections in children, it may be caused by certain compounds in bleach such as chlorine, which can irritate and cause damage to parts of the respiratory tract. This damage may cause swelling and can facilitate infection, she confirmed.
So how can you help protect your family? With an increased effort in replacing harmful chemicals in your home with more eco-friendly products, you can help prevent certain health risks for you and your children – a win-win for your family AND for the environment!