The Sickest Live

In Bleached Homes

The Sickest Live In Bleached Homes. Healthy Living Magazine

The Sickest Live In Bleached Homes. Healthy Living Magazine

Rarely do we associate laundering with building up body burdens of toxic chemicals. However, in our quest for the whitest white, the use of bleach or whitening detergents frequently includes hypochlorite or bleach made from chlorine, the same chemical in dioxin and DDT.

You may have heard of dioxin, an industrial contaminant that is the byproduct of chlorination processes. Dioxin comes from chlorine (Cl), a rare yellow-green gas, 17th on the Periodic Table of Elements. The pesticide DDT, which causes cancer and negative reproductive effects, is also an organochlorine. Like heptachlor, chlordane and chlorpyrifos, all these poisons are made with chlorine.

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These are so indestructible that they stay in human tissues for decades when we are exposed to them through food, water and air. They are linked with cancer, neurological disease, reproductive, genetic and other harmful effects.

banal poison

Strange that while we can get outraged over some distant enemy like dioxin or DDT, we don’t think twice about what we inhale, pour and subsequently wear every day when we do our laundry. We mean when was the last time you gave a thought to the fact that you are pouring organochlorines into your laundry, wearing and absorbing them as residues in your clothing when you use laundry bleach?

Now we are starting to see that these laundered synthetics have potentially adverse human health effects. When the Clorox Company analyzed hypochlorite-based bleach products they found carcinogens such as chloroform and carbon tetrachloride and endocrine disruptors such as polychlorodibenzofurans.

Use of bleach in the home and wash is thought to kill just about everything that could cause an infectious disease and therefore reduce illness. But this reason for its widespread use was badly damaged when European scientists wanted to determine if using the powerful chlor-alkali solutions made with sodium hypochlorite that are poured into the wash, used on floors and in all-purpose sprays among other solutions, make kids healthier or sicker.

The study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online April 2, looked at 9,000 kids from 6 to 12 years old. The kids exposed to the most bleach products had more illnesses. Spaniard homes and schools used the most bleach. Only 7% of homes in Finland did and they had the lowest rates of illness. The Spaniard penchant for the corrosive caustic whitener meant respiratory tract infections were common among children. But the last insult to the frequent use of bleach theory came in the Netherlands where children had high flu rates if the homes used bleach and any kind of infection if schools did.

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Although the Clorox Company has documented organochlorine formation in its products, research scientists haven’t known if the clothes we wear are contaminated with these same chemicals. Researchers at Marymount Manhattan College used X-ray spectroscope analysis to uncover organochlorine byproducts in cotton fabrics laundered with chlorine bleach.

Organochlorines increased at higher wash temperature. Their results “suggest…a new risk factor for elevated organochlorine body burdens in humans.”

In a report, 12 young men developed allergic contact dermatitis, in each case, from wearing yellow cotton sweaters that had been bleached with sodium hypochlorite. The investigators identified phosgene, a poisonous gas formed from chlorine.

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The phosgene was a sensitizer that could have been the cause of the skin disorder as it “showed strong eliciting activities, not only in the guinea pigs sensitized with the extract, but also in a male volunteer sensitized by exposure to a yellow sweater during irritancy testing.” The phosgenesensitized guinea pigs even at one part per million levels.

A 2007 report in Dermatitis notes that in cases of persistent contact dermatitis, looking at exposures to laundry products may be the explanation. The investigators from the University Hospitals of Cleveland blamed tight-fitting clothing and “retention of allergens in clothing, even after washing.”

white without toxicity

There is no such thing as a perfectly nontoxic bleaching agent, but we can still brighten, whiten and sanitize laundry with ingredients that are less aggressive and toxic to the environment. Sodium carbonate, sulfate or perborate combinations whiten clothing. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a less toxic alternative.

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Belkin NL. Aseptics and aesthetics of chlorine bleach: can its use in laundering be safely abandoned? Am J Infect Control. 1998 Apr;26(2):149-151. Kojima S, Momma J, Kaniwa MA, Ikarashi Y, Sato M, Nakaji Y, Kurokawa Y, Nakamura A. Phosgene (chlorophenyl) hydrazones, strong sensitizers found in yellow sweaters bleached with sodium hypochlorite, defined as causative allergens for contact dermatitis by an experimental screening method in animals. Contact Dermatitis. 1990 Sept;23(3):129-141. Leri AC, Anthony LN. Formation of organochlorine byproducts in bleached laundry. Chemosphere. 2013 Feb;90(6):2041-2049. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2012.10.088. E-pub 2012 Dec 20. Dermatitis. 2007 Dec;18(4):212-214
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