I used to think bleach was a clean smell, but now I understand that clean is when you smell nothing at all. Buying green certified cleaning chemicals for my own home is one way I protect my family. My son now spends close to seven hours a day in his Kindergarten classroom. So I began to wonder what chemicals are being used in his school and what impact they have on children’s health? Other friends were expressing similar concerns about this issue in their own schools. I decided to help us all connect with some experts to learn about how green cleaners are used in schools.
We contacted a nearby school district already taking steps to use green cleaning products. With 19 buildings, and over 2000 square feet of floor space to clean, Dublin Public School’s Custodial Manager, Greg Thompson explained that a green cleaning program in a district only uses about a handful of chemicals. That is a far cry from the custodial closet I remember growing up.
Greg stressed that training and using chemicals correctly is at the heart of a well run green cleaning program. Creating a dilution station instead of the old “glug-glug” method of measuring chemicals can save a district lots of money, but only if the employees are well trained to use the equipment.
Our group learned that using a disinfectant like bleach could pit surfaces and leave behind a dangerous residue when not rinsed off with water. While there is no such thing as a green disinfectant, Howard Cohen from Green Innovations pointed out that there are safer alternatives available. Howard explained that disinfectants should only be used if required on high-risk areas. He emphasized that even when a product is green, you still want to limit exposure. Parents should encourage their schools to use safer neutral disinfectant alternatives — the chemicals are applied for the correct dwell time and allowed to disinfect without leaving behind a harmful residue.
Not every surface needs to be disinfected, and it is important to separate cleaning from disinfecting. An all-purpose peroxide based cleaner is a safer alternative for cleaning glass and other hard surfaces. According to the Healthy Schools Network, cleaning a room from the top down (not bottom up), with an all-purpose product removes most germs. The goal is to maintain a clean environment while using as few chemicals as possible.
Every expert we spoke with emphasized prevention as part of a successful green cleaning program. Mark Bishop from the Healthy Schools Campaign pointed out that a good floor matting system at every entrance significantly prevents certain germs from ever making it into a building. Hand washing is taught and reinforced at every level, as well as how to prevent the spread of germs. The goal is to find chemical-free solutions wherever possible .
February update: In central Ohio, parents worked on the Safe Chemical Campaign. We are trying to have an impact locally. Targeting four school districts in Franklin County. During our meeting, we discussed reaching out to other parent groups in order to gain support within each district. These moms will work on collecting petition signatures throughout the spring that support safe chemicals in schools. We are hoping to collect over 1000 signatures by Earth Day!