Q. I am a concerned parent of two. I am interested in approaching my school district in cleaning up the chemical cleaning supplies they use in the schools. Do you have any idea how I can do this? I already sent an email asking what supplies they use. The list contains toxic cleaners with many health hazards. I’d appreciate any help.
A: Unfortunately, thanks to loose regulations that let cleaning product manufacturers use almost any chemical in their formulas and sell their products without pre-market safety testing, many if not most conventional cleaners contain a variety of hazardous ingredients. These substances pollute indoor air when used and leave behind unhealthy residues. Here are some ways you can help create a safer school environment:
- Start a conversation about green cleaners. From a health perspective, switching to green cleaners may seem an obvious and easy choice, but you may find that your school is worried about high costs, availability, and efficacy. They shouldn’t be! Green cleaners are frequently concentrated, which means they typically cost less per application. And they can often substitute for more than one kind of product to reduce the number of different cleaning products your school has to offer.
- Bring in the good stuff. Even if your district is required to use industrial green cleaners, teachers often ask parents to contribute by supplying to individual classrooms. If the call goes out for sprays, wipes, other cleaning products or even hand soap, set an example and supply third party certified products that meet your green seal of approval. And (gently) let your teacher know why you chose them. They might not be aware of the issues that surround conventional cleaning products and children’s health.
- Urge your school to reduce exposure. If conventional cleaning products are used, there are things schools can do to lower kids’ exposure to them. Strategies include:
- Open windows to clear out fumes and aerosol particles.
- Rinse surfaces thoroughly with plain water to limit residue left behind.
- Place mats at doors to reduce the amount of dirt and residue such as pesticides and automobile exhaust (often tracked in from outside).
- Know the rules. Some states and districts now require or promote the use of green cleaners in their schools. This is great news. If your state is one of these, make sure your school is obeying the law. You can ask for a list of the cleaning products currently being used. It never hurts to provide information on green products if you don’t like what you see. Should you see any products that are not third-party certified, alert your teachers to generate greater awareness of their use.
Learn more by reading our new eBook Easy Steps to Healthy Schools & Daycares