When I had my chiropractic practice, one of my patients was a preschool teacher. She had horribly cracked hands. She told me that she’d use Clorox mixture to clean and disinfect the tables and chairs every day. And when a child was diagnosed with Strep throat or pink eye, the cleaning procedure would involve the toys and everything that kids would touch. Well, I remember thinking, if the cleaning products (mainly Clorox) that they used to kill germs were also harming adults, by the look of the teacher’s hands, what were the visible and invisible effects on the toddlers?
Similar thoughts occurred to me as my daughter’s school building used to have awful cleaning solution smells when I visited the school after school hours for PTA meetings.
So I was not surprised to find out that 25% of chemicals in the cleaning products used in schools are toxic and contribute to poor indoor air quality, smog, cancer, asthma, and other disease, according to cleaningforhealthyschools.org.
Well, it turns out that I am not the only person who questioned the toxic cleaning products and the potential danger to the children, because New York State became the first state to enact a green cleaning law for schools in 2005 and took effect in September 2006, adopting the policy strategy of requiring that school districts use detailed green cleaning guidelines standards established by the state.
Booya! Go New York!
Then, Illinois followed suit in 2007 with a law that also school districts to use green cleaning products pursuant to state guidelines. Maine took a different approach in 2007, requiring the state to publish information on green cleaning and procedures, but declining to mandate green cleaning in schools. Missouri is the latest state to join this legislation.
According to the New York State law…
New York State Education Law 409-i requires the use of environmentally sensitive cleaning and maintenance (green) products in all public and nonpublic schools. The law took effect on September 1, 2006 and requires the State Education Department to develop an impact analysis report by June 1, 2007.
And these states have proposed laws but are unenacted….yet. Hopefully, they wil soon.
- Massachusetts 2007
- Rhode Island 2007
- California 2009
- Minnesota 2009
- Oregon 2009
- Vermont 2009
States with new policies on green clean schools this year:
And these individual school districts have had their own guidelines for green cleaning practices.
- Chicago (IL) – 2005
- Montgomery County, (MD) – 2006
- Boston (MA) – 2007
- Bellingham (WA) – 2003-2004
- Great Neck (NY) – 2004
- Amity (CT) – 2007
I know these numbers don’t look that great. But it’s a start. When other states start to learn the benefits of children being in school more days because they don’t get sick from Asthma, or suffer breathing problems induced by indoor pollution and allergies to chemicals, those states will see why they need to act now to propose the same laws. Some of your children spend more hours in the school buildings than at home. You might use non-toxic, chemical free cleaning supplies at home but if the children are exposed to the harsh chemicals at school, all those efforts at home are for naught. We should be able to protect the children when they are in school too.
Check out these organizations and programs that promote green cleaning schools throughout the coutry.
- epa.gov has Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3) for schools to encourage safe management of chemicals, in the maintenance closets and in class labs.
- Deidre Imus (the wife of Don Imus) has a green cleaning product company called dienviro and through its national “Greening Your Schools“ program where the The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center is helping schools adopt more eco-friendly cleaning and maintenance practices.
- Green Clean Schools is the Healthy Schools Campaign’s national partnership to promote green cleaning in America’s schools. The initiative brings together the cleaning industry, educational leaders, parents and advocates in a rapidly growing Green Team whose mission is to encourage schools to adopt environmentally friendly policies, practices and products. The Green Team spearheads a nationwide educational effort designed to engage school decision-makers at the national, state and local levels through distribution of The Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, the GreenCleanSchools.org website and other outreach activities.
- “Green Clean Schools national Summit” – the second annual “Green Clean Schools National Summit” will be held on September 15, 2009 in Washington DC where national organizations, corporate leaders, state-level activists and concerned individuals will gather to develop state-specific strategies with lessons learned from previous successful efforts. Summit attendees will have the opportunity to learn about model legislation, see sample materials, discuss responses to common objections and get updates on policy and product development.
With back to school just around the corner, it’s not only making our lunch boxes, backpacks, and note books green that is important. We have to make the buildings where the children will be spending many hours green. It’s only matter of their health.
By the way, do you have lunch bags ready for the coming school year? Check out this company that makes pretty cool reusable school lunch packs. Kids Konserve is giving 15 % off for ecokaren readers. This awesome company makes stylish eco friendly lunch boxes, bottles, bags, and whole kits for kids of all ages. And you can get 15% off if you are an ‘ecokaren’ reader. Just use the code ‘ecokaren’ when you check out and you will receive 15% on your purchase! The offer is valid until September 30, 2009! I’ll remind you again.