bleach and ammonia (was Re: Cutting boards and vegetarians)
From: Howard Landman (
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 14:51:50 -0700 (MST)
> On the other hand, I don't know if any bacteria can survive old-fashioned 
> bleach or ammonia.

They shouldn't be able to if they actually contact it.  Bleach will actively
and irreversibly react with their substance.  Ammonia will have an effect
more like digestion.

> [Is there] any environmentl impact from either of these two?

Bleach (NaOCl, sodium hypochlorite) YES.  It can react with organic matter
to form a multitude of chloro-organic compounds, many of which are quite
long-lived and some of which are fairly nasty.  Think DDT, PCBs, TCE,
dioxin, "agent orange", etc.

Ammonia (NH3 gas, or ammonium hydroxide NH4OH in water) NO.  The cleaning
effect of ammonia is derived almost entirely from it being strongly
basic (like lye), able to form coordination complexes with many metals,
and also able to evaporate without leaving a residue (which is why it's
good for windows).  Once it has been neutralized or heavily diluted, it
is no longer toxic but rather acts as a nitrogen fertilizer.  (You can
go to your garden store and buy ammonium phosphate or ammonium nitrate,
for example.)  The only bad effects there are things like promoting the
growth of algae in waterways.

> (By the way, NEVER mix bleach with ammonia - that creates a poisonous gas)

Chlorine gas (Cl2) to be precise.  Faintly yellow-green and used as a poison
gas in WW I.  I've done that "experiment" so I can report from personal
experience that it works.  :-)

Of course, there's chlorine in our (disinfected) drinking/bathing water.
You can breathe in quite a bit over time just taking a long shower every
day, which is why some people sell filters to remove it (there's one called
RainShower I think, that Real Goods sells).  A carbon ("activated charcoal")
filter will also remove most chlorine from water.

        Howard Landman

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