Scrubbing down the countertops might make you feel safer from illness, but if you’re using cleaners that contain bleach, the opposite might be true.
A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine last week found that children who grew up in homes cleaned with bleach had a higher likelihood of developing respiratory illnesses.
The study polled parents of elementary school children about how often they used bleach to clean their homes, and how often their children got illnesses like the flu, tonsillitis, sinus infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
It’s a paradox: Most people equate bleach with health, since it wipes out a variety of germs and viruses. But children living in homes cleaned with bleach at least once a week were 18 percent more likely to get a respiratory infection.
The risk levels were even higher for the flu (20 percent) and tonsilitis (35 percent).
Researchers were quick to point out that the study doesn’t prove cause and effect. In other words, they can’t definitively say that parents’ use of bleach caused their children to develop respiratory problems.
“We had no information on the dilution, quantity and so on,” lead author Dr. Lidia Casas told The New York Times. “Therefore we cannot give any recommendation of a safe concentration, or make any other recommendations on the use of bleach at home.”
This isn’t the first study to link household cleaners with respiratory problems. The American Lung Association warns that some common cleaning supplies can release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These indoor air pollutants can contribute to breathing problems, and in some cases, chronic health conditions.
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