Remember when the previous American president Donald Trump suggested injecting bleach was an effective protection against COVID-19? Comments like this certainly begged belief, and even more shocking, some people took them seriously.
As alarming as some of those comments may have been, it's undeniable that bleach is an effective germicide and cleaning agent when used correctly – that is, to clean surfaces not be ingested! As we've all seen over the past few months, many bleach brands are now including references to COVID-19 in their marketing efforts, claiming that bleach is best for killing coronavirus.
Unsurprisingly, as people desperately tried to ensure their homes were germ-free, worldwide sales of bleach surged at an astronomical rate. Prior to this, the popularity of bleach was on a steady decline as younger generations such as millennials and gen z, tended to seek out healthier and more earth conscious alternatives.
However, the fact remains: bleach is a hazardous chemical. And, if the priority is our health, surely we should be thinking twice before reaching for the bleach?
1. Bleach interacts with other cleaning chemicals
Even though they may not headline bleach on the label, you may be surprised to find out just how many household products contain bleach. Regular tile cleaners, bathroom de-scalers, and stain removers contain bleach. A variety of other common household products like window cleaners, dish soap, and drain cleaners can react adversely with bleach.
One of the most serious reactions is with ammonia, which reacts to form chlorine gas. This can cause life-threatening, irreversible cell damage in the nasal passage and lungs. There is also the potential for chlorine gas to be emitted when bleach interacts with home-spun cleaning solutions, like vinegar.
2. These chemicals can harm the body
Certainly, chemical reactions triggered by bleach pose a significant danger to your health. However, over-use of neat bleach in the household and workplace can also be detrimental. When used as a cleaning agent, bleach stays on surfaces and continues to emit fumes. Primarily, inhaling bleach can damage the lungs, skin and eyes.
If allowed to sit on the skin for long periods, it can cause irritation, burning, and irreversible tissue damage. The over-use of bleach is also particularly dangerous for children. New research has revealed that children who are exposed to bleach in their homes on a regular basis are more likely to have respiratory illnesses.
3. Bleach is extremely damaging to the environment
It may feel like a million years ago but before the coronavirus pandemic hit, there was a huge media focus about caring for our planet. We all watched David Attenborough, among others, explain about how our actions were directly affecting our planet's health and it felt as though we were starting to take action across the board.
Bleach has harmful effects on the environment as it lingers for several years. Even small amounts can accumulate in air and water over time, which can cause adverse reactions in the body.
Moreover, when deposited in water, bleach reacts with other chemicals to form dioxins. These are highly dangerous toxins that can have serious impacts on human and animal health. For instance, environmental toxins created by bleach have impacted populations of several species of birds and fish.
Being clean is being healthy
The global pandemic has meant we're more health-conscious than ever. So when it comes to killing coronavirus, is bleach best? It's effective certainly, but perhaps now as we look towards recovering after the shock, we should be taking a more holistic approach. Plus, bleach only kills germs on surfaces, so we should be considering more comprehensive solutions. Our health is important, so we should see keeping our homes, schools and workplaces safe and hygienic as a multi-faceted project.