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Bleaches PDF Print E-mail
They all contain strong oxidising agents such as hydrogen peroxide, calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, sodium perborate or sodium carbonate. Some bleaches are specially formulated for laundry use and contain quaternary ammonium salts as bactericides, as well as water softeners, brighteners and so on.

Very large amounts of bleach are used in manufacturing textiles and paper. Chlorine bleaching in pulp mills produces chlorinated dioxins and furans; both classes of compounds are targeted for elimination globally under the Persistent Organic Pollutants treaty.

Health effects
Household bleach is often very alkaline and will damage the skin. If bleach is swallowed, it will cause vomiting. Milk, egg white, starch paste or milk of magnesia should be used as an antidote.

When chlorine bleach is mixed with acids, such as are contained in some toilet cleaners, highly toxic chlorine gas can be generated.

Environmental effects
The bleaching action of household bleach does not persist in the environment, but in high concentrations it will kill vegetation. The products of the bleaching reaction of chlorine can be highly toxic and are persistent chlorinated organic compounds (POPs). When these are produced on a large scale, as they are in the pulp and paper industry, they can be very damaging to the environment. The effluent from paper mills has been known to kill all fish in rivers into which it was discharged.

If laundry water incorporating the bleach sodium perborate is used on plants, high levels of boron may accumulate which will kill vegetation, although overall sodium perborate bleach is less damaging to the environment than the others.

Alternatives
Sunshine will whiten cotton and linen fabrics. Hydrogen peroxide is a less harmful, though more expensive, bleaching agent than chlorine bleach. It is now possible to buy some unbleached paper products such as toilet paper, coffee filters and stationery. Alternative cleaning products are available, which are less toxic and equally effective in controlling bacteria.

 
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