One of the most popular disinfectants used in household cleaning is bleach. From cleaning wipes to straight out of the bottle, bleach is used to clean surfaces, remove mold and brighten clothes.
As far back as 3000 B.C. a form of bleach was used to brighten white clothes. Shakespeare even made reference to bleaching in 1598. But it was around 1913 that bleach was touted as a disinfectant. In many of today’s households, products containing bleach are used as a surface sanitizer to kill bacteria.
A new study from the Netherlands says the cleaning agent may increase children’s risk for flu, tonsillitis and other infections. The study did not prove cause and effect, but suggested that bleach and other similar cleaning products may be contributors to these types of illnesses.
The study was led by Lidia Casas, of the Center for Environment and Health at KU Leuven in Leuven, the Netherlands. Her team looked at more than 9,000 children, aged 6 to 12, in the Netherlands, Finland and Spain.
Those whose parents used bleach to clean their homes at least once a week had higher rates of respiratory and other types of infections. Specifically, Casas and colleagues found that these children had a 20 percent higher risk of having the flu at least once in the previous year, a 35 percent higher risk of recurrent tonsillitis and an 18 percent higher risk for any recurrent infection.
According to the study’s authors, airborne components of bleach and similar products may irritate the lining of children's lungs, triggering inflammation and making it easier for infections to take hold. Or, bleach may somehow suppress the immune system, making infections more likely, the team said.
The American Cleaning Institute (ACI), which represents makers of bleach and bleach products, responded quickly to 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.
Responses to the study from medical specialists have been mixed.
"While this study observes higher respiratory effects of bleach on children, it is not a cause-and-effect study, and other factors or household cleaners may be involved," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"There is evidence that high concentrations of bleach can cause asthmatic reactions when ventilation is not adequate, but the leap to increased incidence of infections is less clear," he said.
Dr. Jacqueline Moline, vice president of population health at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y., noted, "These results are in line with other studies that show the impact of cleaning products on the health of young children."
Moline also said that parents might want to consider using a different product for household cleaning, "the take-home message from this study is that one should be prudent in the use of harsh household cleaners with bleach or other chemicals, especially in homes with young children, and seek out less toxic or harsh products to clean the home."
The study was published online in the April edition of the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.
Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/asthma-news-47/could-household-bleach-raise-kids-risk-for-flu-other-infections-698036.html