Chlorine Bleach's Impact On The Environment

1576 words - 7 pages

Chlorine-based bleaches are found in many household cleaners and play an important role in water treatment. However, they also pose a significant risk to the health of living organisms and to the environment. Are there any viable alternatives to chlorine bleach which could be more forgiving to the environment?

Introduction (245 words)
WHAT IS CHLORINE BLEACH
Bleaches are used as household chemicals to whiten clothes, remove stains and to be used as disinfectants, often by oxidation (Mittal, 2007). Numerous types of bleach contain strong bactericidal properties, and are used for disinfecting and sterilizing, thus why chlorine-based bleaches are popularly used in swimming pool sanitation to control bacteria, viruses and algae and in any institution where sterile conditions are needed (Reader's Digest). Chlorine is the basis for commonly used bleaches; for example, the solution of sodium hypochlorite. The concentration of chlorine-based bleaches are often expressed as percent active chlorine, where one gram of a 100 percent active chlorine bleach has the same bleaching power as one gram of chlorine. These bleaches can react with other common household chemicals like vinegar or ammonia to produce toxic gases (Bleach, 2014).

There are a number of diverse health issues which can be associated with chlorine-based bleaches or household cleaners that contain bleach. These include respiratory problems, burned skin, and damage to the nervous system. Often, the direct physical health issue isn’t caused from the product itself, but rather the results of chemical reactions. With bleach, there is a wide spectrum of reactions that can cause multiple dangerous situations, to humans and the environment. Toxins produced as a result of bleach use, which build up in the environment, cause dangers to the water supply, kill fish, harm animals, and divert back to people through the food chain (Karth).

Chlorine Bleach Chemical Background, History and Impacts (774 words)
HISTORY CHLORINE BLEACH
The use of chlorine bleach was first recorded in Austria in 1847 as a medical disinfectant. It is now used to disinfect dialysis and surgical equipment, surfaces in hospitals and medical labs and household purposes. (Chlorine Story). The food processing industry uses chlorine bleach to kill hazardous bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli on equipment. Sodium hypochlorite also is added to municipal drinking water to kill pathogenic waterborne organisms like the bacterium Salmonella typhi, which causes typhoid fever and killed many people before water disinfection and antibiotic treatment became common.
Chlorine bleach kills Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera, a disease that killed in epidemic proportions before water treatment. It can still kill in countries where clean drinking water is not available. Chlorine bleach can also kill dangerous bacteria and viruses on surfaces, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), influenza and...

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