Hazards of oxygen bleach

Updated July 19, 2017

Oxygen bleach is an effective alternative to chlorine bleach and cleans more fabrics than chlorine bleach. Oxygen bleach is available as a powder and a liquid. This bleach is safe to use on clothes at each washing. Like any chemical, it can be hazardous to health. According to the University of Oregon, oxygen bleach has a low Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) rating of one out of four.

Powdered oxygen bleach is potentially hazardous when used over long periods of time. It contains crystalline silica in small quantities. Crystalline silica can be inhaled. Workers who are chronically exposed to large quantities of this silica have increased rates of lung cancer. However, the small amount of crystalline silica in powdered oxygen bleach is unlikely to pose a significant risk to human health. Individuals who process powdered or liquid oxygen bleach on a regular basis should wear protective gear to avoid contact or inhalation of bleach.

Contact Hazards

Both liquid and powdered oxygen bleach cause irritation to skin, eyes and respiration on contact according to the University of Oregon. Powdered and liquid oxygen bleach must be washed from eyes for 15 minutes. Flush water under the eyelids when washing liquid bleach from eyes. Oxygen bleach may cause eye irritation and corneal ulceration.

In case of skin contact, remove any affected clothing and wash the area with water. Skin contact with bleach may result in blisters and bleached hair.

Get plenty of fresh air if inhalation of large amounts of oxygen bleach occurs. Anyone who has stopped breathing from inhalation should receive immediate resuscitation and medical attention. Seek medical attention if any health problems persist from oxygen bleach contact. Get immediate medical attention if oxygen bleach is swallowed.

Oxygen Bleach Spills

Avoid sweeping powdered bleach spills. Vacuum any spilt powdered oxygen bleach to avoid dust and crystalline silica inhalation. Liquid bleach spills may also be removed by liquid-safe vacuums.

Safe Oxygen Bleach Use

Oxygen bleach is most effective in hot wash cycles. Always add bleach to water before adding clothes to the washer. Oxygen bleach is reactive with oxidisable metals like copper, iron, silver, brass, bronze and lead. Avoid bleach contact with these metals. Oxygen bleach containers should be sealed shut when not in use, to avoid spills and evaporation. Store bleach containers in a cool, dry location. Keep oxygen bleach out of reach of children at all times.

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About the Author

Based in Colorado, Jacqueline Lerche has been writing alternative health, natural science and environment-related articles since 2009. Lerche holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and an Environmental Affairs Certification from Colorado State University.