Cleaning with bleach isn’t anything new, parents have been doing it for decades. But today the disinfectant is also added to a host of cleaning products. Cleaning with bleach has become a mainstay with parents that want to kill every germ in the house. But more and more research is showing that our homes are so clean that we’re making our kids sick.
A new report, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found that parents who regularly clean with bleach actually have children that tend to get sicker. Researchers followed 9,000 kids ages 6-12 years old and found a higher number of infections in kids when their parents regularly used bleach in the home. In all, they found a 20 percent increase in influenza, 35 percent increase in tonsillitis, and an 18 percent increase in any kind of infection.
While bleach is, of course, a strong disinfectant, it kills so many germs that your immune system becomes compromised because it doesn’t learn to fight the infections that commonly occur. Not to mention that the study found that bleach also releases vapors that may harm your child’s lungs.
Parents who are concerned about this latest finding should consider a chemical-free disinfectant like white vinegar diluted with water. Consider washing down counters and other areas where germs may linger with warm soap and water and avoid antibacterial soaps which can contain antimicrobial agents like triclosan. Triclosan can also have a negative impact on your immune system and can lead to the formation of antibiotic resistant infections.
For tough stains where mold can form, in your bathtub for example, wipe the tub down with your white vinegar concoction and then come in with a scrub brush and baking soda. Or you can use this tough All-Natural Scouring Powder from Wellness Mama. Remember that a little elbow grease never hurt anyone.
And while you’re at it, get your kids outside. My mother-in-law has some great advice for parents. "Kids should eat a pound of dirt, it's good for their immune systems." I second that. When your immune system isn’t confronted with a host of bacteria then it doesn’t know how to fight them. In this study, one of the impacts was an increased rate of infection, but other research has shown that it can also increase the rate of allergies in kids.
“[T]he decreasing incidence of infections in western countries and more recently in developing countries is at the origin of the increasing incidence of both autoimmune and allergic diseases.” The increasing incidence of autoimmune disease includes some biggies like multiple sclerosis, inflammatory disease, allergies, and asthma. This is according to the Hygiene Hypothesis. That’s why kids that grow up on farms have shown less incidence of allergies than kids that live in the city. So there you have it, don’t be afraid to get dirty.
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Image of cleaning with bleach from Shuttershock