Friday, January 12, 2007

Green Kitchen Tip #2

“Dump” the Bleach

Following along the lines of my first Green Kitchen tip, my second tip addresses the problem of household chlorine bleach in the waste water system.

Chlorine products -- bleaches -- are another problematic waste stream. . . . Most people probably live in the mistaken belief that such products could only have a beneficial effect on the drains, because they kill germs, but this is not the case. With so much organic material and ammonia in sewage, the chlorine products react with these rather than bacteria, which is why chlorine is never added in the early stages of sewage treatment.

The problem is that these chlorine based products react with organic chemicals to produce chlorinated organics -- the same group of chemicals as the weedkiller DDT, PCB's and pesticides. They are not biodegradable, they persist in the environment and have a cumulative effect. They are not removed in the sewage treatment process. [emphasis added] Many Experts predict there will be a general presumption against the use of chlorine products in the future, apart from as a residual biocide in the water supply. (source)

Chlorine bleach is primarily used for two purposes in the home: as a stain remover and as a disinfectant. Though chlorine bleach does not kill mold and is not recommended for this purpose.

An alternative, non-toxic, stain remover is oxygen bleach. When using oxygen bleach, note that it takes longer to erase stains, so it will require a little patience.

If you are more concerned about microbes, there are a few things you can do to limit your need for disinfectants, and there are also greener alternatives should you need to disinfect. Microbes multiply in moist and messy environments, so if you clean up with soap and hot water right away, you won’t need powerful disinfectants. In fact, the EPA states that:

Practically no surface treatment will completely eliminate bacteria. Try regular cleaning with soap and hot water. Or mix 1/2 cup borax into 1 gallon of hot water to disinfect and deodorize. Isopropyl alcohol is an excellent disinfectant, but use gloves and keep it away from children.

Imagine those microbes that aren’t eliminated (the 1% left behind after bleaching) and how they could develop resistance to the disinfectant, leading to the evolution of superbugs. It has been shown likely in the case of the disinfectant in anti-bacterial soap.

Chlorine bleaches are often added to dishwashing detergents, so choose a green dishwashing detergent, such as Seventh Generation.


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