Bleach, an aqueous solution consisting of sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) and other oxidizers/surfactants, is a commonly used cleaning product in household and workplace environments. The efficacy of bleach stems from its potent antimicrobial and oxidizing properties. Bleach cleaning emits volatile chlorinated and nitrogenated chemical compounds, which can detrimentally impact indoor air quality and human health. Toxic and likely carcinogenic organochlorides, such as chloroform (CHCl3) and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4have been measured at elevated levels in indoor air during bleach use. Bleach cleaning also produces chloramines, which are known respiratory irritants. Mixing bleach with ammonia (NH3) or acids (such as HCl or vinegar) indoors produces dangerous amounts of chloramines and chlorine gas (Cl2), respectively. The accidental mixture of bleach and acid recently lead to the tragic death of an employee at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. Knowledge of the emissions and indoor chemistry from bleach use, and the subsequent impacts toward health and indoor air quality, are therefore imperative to the well-being of consumers and employees who frequently clean with bleach indoors.

 

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