Not all classroom cleaners are created equal
Bleach and Respiratory Allergies/Asthma
Many people, especially in the early childhood field, do not know that bleach, or more specifically the smell of bleach, is an environmental trigger for people with respiratory allergies and asthma. I tell you this as a childcare provider who suffers with chronic severe respiratory allergies and asthma.
What is an environmental trigger? Unlike allergens, which occur in nature, environmental triggers are man-made substances that trigger symptoms for people with respiratory problems. These symptoms do not al-ways show themselves as an acute asthma attack where the person is struggling for breath. Many times the symptoms will seem more like a bad case of the flu without the fever. Substances such as bleach, cigarette smoke, perfume/cologne and other strong smelling cleaners can set off these symptoms with just a brief ex-posure.
With the rise in children with respiratory problems and asthma, this is important information for those of us who care for children every day. Every time you sanitize with bleach, you may be causing a child to have a runny nose, watery eyes, feel lethargic, or have other allergic symptoms. My allergies are severe. Therefore, one exposure to bleach makes me feel as if I have a bad case of the flu. The reactions in other people might not be as noticeable, but these environmental triggers cause restriction of the airways every time, even if it is only slightly.
What can be used as a sanitizer in place of bleach? When I started my childcare this was an all-consuming problem for me. There are several alternatives including ammonium chloride, alcohol, and hydrogen perox-ide. Ammonium chloride and alcohol have too strong a smell for me to use them.
Therefore, I use hydrogen peroxide, which has no smell. In order to sanitize well, you must use a 3% solution. Most bottles of hydrogen peroxide come in this concentration. Therefore, I use it straight from the bottle. This has several advantages over bleach. I do not have to remake my sanitizer every morning. I simply refill my sanitizer spray bottle when it gets low. Hydrogen peroxide also does not stain clothes like bleach does.
If you or any of the children in your care suffer with respiratory allergies or asthma, I hope this information on the effects of bleach will help you all to breathe easier.
For More Information visit
Disinfecting and Sanitizing in Child Care Centers:
Model Recommendations from San Francisco Asthma Task Force
Article submitted by Natalie Wade