Consumer News

Your Favorite Bleach Could Produce Dangerous Indoor Air Pollutants

When cleaning the house, some people enjoy using lemon-scented products and a good amount of light to see and remove dirt. However, it can be a bad combination when using bleach, which could harm both humans and pets. 

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that some commonly used household cleaning products could produce potentially harmful air pollutants. Indoor pollution occurs when bleach fumes react to products that contain the compound, called limonenes, and light.

Limonenes come from the skin of lemons and oranges that manufacturers use in cleaning products for added scent. These compounds are safe and not toxic. 

However, limonenes could trigger a chemical reaction when in contact with bleach fumes and light. They produce air pollutants that can be irritating to eyes and skin and could contribute to serious health problems. 

To understand how indoor air pollution occurs, researchers from the University of Toronto and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania used an environmental chamber to trigger a reaction between limonene and the chlorine gas and hypochlorous acid produced by bleach cleaning products. 

Limonene and the bleach gases quickly released volatile compounds in the dark. But the compounds produced air particles called secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) when exposed to fluorescent light or sunlight.

SOAs are a major component of fine particulate matter. These tiny particles can cause a smoggy haze at high levels and can also travel deep into the lungs.

Exposure could cause short-term health effects, including shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing and eye, nose and throat irritation. In some cases, inhaling fine particulate matter may affect lung function and lead to serious problems in people with asthma and heart disease.

Chronic exposure to the airborne particles has also been linked to chronic bronchitis and increased risk of developing lung cancer and heart disease, CNN reported Wednesday. Earlier studies showed high levels of fine particulate matter in public spaces could contribute to emergency room visits, hospital admissions and deaths.

To help avoid the unwanted effects of household cleaners, researchers of the latest study suggested that people open the windows when cleaning with bleach and citrus-based products. 

Household cleaning products New study shows that lemon-scented cleaning products and bleach could produce potentially harmful air pollutants at home. Pixabay