‘I’m willing to go green in almost every other area, but the eco loo cleaners I’ve tried just don’t do the job.’
While not the most elegant subject, the bleach/toilet conundrum is a common one. The standard dictates of eco living tell us bleach is bad, toxic to waterways and aquatic life and should be substituted with a paste of lemon and vinegar and cup of borax, or at least ready-made bleach-free eco alternatives such as those from Bio D or Ecover.
On the other hand, there’s that deep seated, nagging belief – encouraged by years of primetime TV advertising – that toilets are the deadliest places on earth. Unless we tip down a substantial amount of sodium hypochlorite (household bleach), we feel we are leaving our homes open to bacterial invasion.
. . . But the real ethical issue centres around manufacture. Bleach is from the organochlorine family of chemicals, compounds rarely found in nature and which can take centuries to decompose.
America’s Great Lakes are used as the canary in the coal mine for the global effects of organochlorine pollution on water: 200 compounds have been detected in the water, sediments and animals, and traces found in breast milk. Greenpeace has called for a complete end to organochlorine production. Arguably, by buying household bleach, although it can be considered relatively innocuous in itself, it helps to prop up the whole organochlorine industry.
Bleach does the job, but what is the job and is it necessary? As we live in the Age of Bacteria immunologist, Gerald N Callahan, sums up: ‘Neither humans nor micro-organisms benefit from fully destroying the other. This is not a war, as it has often been described, even though we have an impressive array of weapons – bactericidal cribs and mattresses, toilet cleaners… If it were (a war), we would have lost long ago, overpowered by sheer numbers and evolutionary speed. This is… like a waltz that will last for all of human history. We must hold to our partners carefully and dance well.’ Seems there’s an elegant side to this debate after all.”