Cleaning with bleach linked to more childhood infections –

The use of bleach to clean the home has been linked to a heightened risk of childhood infections.

Research published in the British Medical Journal’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine on Friday found children whose parents regularly used bleach to clean the home were more susceptible to the flu, tonsillitis and other infections.

The study involved more than 9000 school-age children from the Netherlands, Spain and Finland. Their parents were asked to complete a questionnaire about the illnesses their children had had in the previous 12 months and also asked if they used bleach to clean their homes at least once a week.

After taking into account factors such as passive smoking at home, the presence of household mould and the use of bleach to clean school premises, the researchers found higher rates of infections among children whose parents regularly cleaned the home with bleach in all three countries.

The risk of flu was 20 per cent higher for children whose homes were cleaned with bleach, while the risk of recurrent tonsillitis was 35 per cent higher for these children than for children whose parents did not regularly use bleach to clean.

The risk of any recurrent infection was 18 per cent higher for children whose parents regularly used bleach.

The findings back previous studies linking cleaning products with respiratory symptoms and inflammation.

“The high frequency of use of disinfecting cleaning products, caused by the erroneous belief, reinforced by advertising, that our homes should be free of microbes, makes the modest effects reported in our study of public health concern,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers cautioned that because of the limited information they had about other cleaning products used in the home, they could not exclude the possibility that it was other products, or the combination of bleach and other products, that made children more vulnerable to infection.

The researchers suggested the process of cleaning with bleach could generate volatile or airborne compounds that could damage the lining of lung cells, sparking inflammation and making it easier for infections to take hold. They also suggested bleach could suppress the immune system.


Source – The Sydney Morning Herald (Dan Harrison)

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