It whitens your whites, sanitizes your sinks and obliterates mold and mildew like friggin’ Optimus Prime.
The shit is amazing.
But those fluffy white towels and disinfected counters have a downside: one sniff and you might faint. Besides making you light-headed, that heavenly bleach scent is a sign you’re dealing with a serious toxin. Chlorine bleach is a known respiratory irritant that can give off a toxic gas when it’s mixed with other common household products. Fun fact? It was actually the first poison gas to be used as a weapon during World War I.
And you’re wiping down your counters with this shit?
What’s in Your Tub?
These days, the biggest problem with chlorine is that its byproducts pollute our water supply and our bodies. Dioxins – a set of chemical chlorine byproducts – are considered the most carcinogenic little dudes known to science. Dirty dioxins accumulate in our fatty tissues and — unlike other environmental toxins — our bodies aren’t able to metabolize them. So they stay in our systems and mess shit up. In humans, dioxins have been linked to cancer, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, reproductive disorders, decreased fertility, endometriosis, birth defects and immune system problems.
Chill, It’s Safe
Dioxins are also hormone disrupters that mimic estrogen. On average, Americans ingest 300 to 600 times the EPA’s “safe dose” of dioxins on a daily basis. The problem is so widespread that experts agree it would be difficult to find a person alive who does not have detectable levels of dioxins in his or her blood.
Scared yet? You should be. This shit is nasty and it’s kind of hard to avoid. Bleach is used to make paper products, including coffee filters, milk cartons, diapers, tampons, paper towels and toilet tissues. All of these products leech chlorine and dioxins into your drinks or onto your skin.
Bleach and Kiddies
If you have tots running around the house, it’s especially important to ditch the bleach. A 1997 study found that one-third of calls to the Poison Control Center about household cleaners were about chlorine bleach – and most of those calls were about poisoning in children under 6 years old.
The good news? You don’t have to clean like your mom did. Today, the chemical industry has evolved to produce products that still clean, sanitize and disinfect, without the harmful repercussions to our bodies and the environment:
Biokleen Oxygen Bleach Plus. This is a powder that uses grapefruit seed extract to brighten colors and whites. Fights stains, mildew and corrosion. Great for laundry and especially good at removing pet stains from carpets. Biodegradable and not tested on animals. PETA approved. $6 atbiokleen.com or Whole Foods.
Oxo Brite Natural Oxygen Powder. Made by Earth Friendly Products, it uses oxygen to whiten, brighten and deodorize. Biodegradable, not tested on animals. Removes current and old stains on fabric, upholstery and most water-washable surfaces. Great for kid and pet accidents. $5 at Walgreens and other mass retailers.
Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach Ultra. Contains only hydrogen peroxide and water. Not tested on animals. Good for removing stains, whitening and brightening laundry or for cleaning kitchen sinks, bathroom tile, showers, toilets and tubs. Safe for septic tanks. $5 at luckyvitamin.com or Whole Foods.
Pros: Removes stains and cleans without the harmful side effects of chlorine bleach. No nasty smells. Products are also more concentrated, meaning they’re cheaper and use less packaging — always a plus for the environment.
Cons: Laundry needs to be soaked longer than with chlorine bleach.
Want to know the deets on what else to buy? Click here to browse through our “What the Hell Do I Buy” category on the website!
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Liz Farrington, Features Writer
A vegetarian who wishes she could stay vegan, Liz is a media professional and former editor at several fitness and lifestyle publications throughout Southern California. Now principal in Farrington Communications, she does sales, marketing, writing and editing for a range of clients. When she’s not shopping for leather-free handbags or deciding which companies to boycott, the Las Vegas resident enjoys following liberal politics, detoxing at the co-op, scoping farmers’ markets and volunteering for animal rescue.