Study: Cleaning with Bleach May Be Health Risk for Children


A new study reports that using bleach to disinfect surfaces from bacteria can lead to illnesses within the family and especially children.

Bleach does kill germs, but it also makes children more susceptible to flu, tonsillitis, and other infections. Aaron Mamiit, writing for Tech Times, says research has made a connection between bleach usage in the home and the number of infections, especially respiratory issues. The bottom line is that passive exposure to bleach led to a 20% increase in the chance that children would contract the flu last year.

Along with that, there exists a 35% increase in the risk of recurrent tonsillitis connected to bleach use, making some health officials label the use of bleach in the household a public health concern. The study analyzed the consequences of bleach exposure to more than 9,000 six to 12 year-old children in Barcelona, Finland, and the Netherlands.

A questionnaire regarding infections acquired over the last year by their children was given to parents. The amount of bleach used for cleaning in the home within a week was also part of the survey. In Spain, bleach was used at 72%, but in Finland at only 7%. It was discovered that schools in Spain were cleaned using bleach, while those in Finland were not. In all three countries, infections increased and were more frequent in homes where parents used bleach to clean. Statistically-significant increases of flu and tonsillitis was present, and the recurrent infection risk was higher by 18%.

It was possible that the cause was the irritant properties of the compounds generated when using bleach for cleaning. The lung’s cellular lining could be damaged, which could lead to inflammation which opens the chance for infections in children.

Study author Dr. Lidia Casas from Belgium’s Centre for Environment and Health said researchers were concerned since bleach was used by so many households even though there were underlying negative effects. Casas added that bleach could possibly suppress the body’s immune system.

The study did take into consideration other factors like passive smoking in the home, parental education, and household mold. Madlen Davies of the Daily Mail quotes Casas:

“The high frequency of use of disinfecting cleaning products, caused by the erroneous belief, reinforced by advertising, that our homes should be free of microbes, makes the modest effects reported in our study of public health concern.”

She continued by emphasizing that the study was observational, so no definitive conclusions can be made about cause and effect. Also, there was no information on the use of other cleaning products and only basic information was gathered on the use of bleach in the home. This made differentiation between exposure levels difficult.

LiveScience’s Laura Geggel reports there have been earlier studies that suggest cleaning product use increases wheezing and respiratory infections in babies and persistent wheezing and airway inflammation in school-age children, according to researchers.

In an article written by Robert Preidt for HealthDay, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), representative of bleach products and products containing bleach, were not in agreement with the study.

“Since there was no data presented on the children’s actual exposure to bleach — nor any diagnoses of actual diseases — the authors are merely speculating,” the ACI said in a statement. The group also said that disinfecting household surfaces with bleach can protect people from bacterial infection.

04 7, 2015
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