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Research Points To Link Between Use Of Bleach, Infections In Children

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Researchers have found a link between spaces cleaned with bleach and increased infections in children.

What some people swear by as a power cleaner could be connected to the fly, tonsillitis, and bronchitis.

"I like the smell and I know it kills germs and bacteria," Frank Manzanet told CBS2's Elise Finch.

But, can simple exposure harm children?

A team of European scientists recently looked at the effects of bleach exposure on kids between the ages of 6 and 12.

They found that children living in homes that are cleaned with bleach weekly had a 20 percent higher rate of childhood infections than those who did not.

It also found that the risk of recurrent infection was 18 percent higher among those children.

New Yorkers had mixed reactions to the findings of the study.

"It doesn't surprise me, because bleach is very harsh and toxic smelling and when you inhale it, you're not supposed to. So I'm not surprised," Emily Kirshen said.

"I think it's bogus," Frank Manzanet said, "I've got two boys and they don't get sick."

Medical experts were not surprised.

"It's not surprising that chemical vapors would affect children. We know that chemical irritants, even perfumes or other cleaning fluids will cause asthmatic reactions in children. The leap to infection is a little bit different," Dr. Len Horovitz, Lenox Hill Hospital.

Dr. Horovitz said researchers seem to infer that because bleach causes inflammation and the production of fluids in the sinuses and lungs it's setting the stage for infection.

"There is more fluid for viruses and bacteria to play in, but that doesn't mean it has introduced viruses and bacteria per se. You're not getting that from the actual bleach," he explained.

At this point the consensus in the medical community seems to be that parents don't need to ditch the bleach until more research is done.

Doctors said the key to using bleach safely is to properly ventilate the space that you will be cleaning, and allowing fumes to evaporate before children enter the space.

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