Bleaches based on solutions of sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) are widely used in the household to disinfect and clean hard surfaces and to bleach the laundry. A review of both published and unpublished toxicological data is presented. In addition, the results of a survey of human accidents with hypochlorite bleaches by the Poison Control Centers of France, Italy, Belgium, Greece, Turkey, Spain and Portugal for the period 1989-1992 are presented. The data show that acute accidental exposure to household bleach in use or in foreseeable misuse situations results, in the great majority of the cases, in minor, transient adverse effects on health, with no permanent sequelae. Ingestion is the most frequent route of exposure, followed by inhalation of gases evolved by mixing sodium hypochlorite bleach with acid or alkaline products. All evidence presented confirms the normal safety profile of hypochlorite-based bleaches to be similar to that of other 'generally recognized as safe' household products.