Many Americans are familiar with “Code Orange” days, when the air outside is so dangerous that school officials keep kids indoors. But what if the air quality inside our schools is just as much of a concern? That’s the case in half of our nation’s schools where the EPA found poor indoor air quality is putting children’s developing bodies at risk every school day. Poor indoor air quality is linked to asthma, concentration problems, and even poor test results. Unhealthy indoor air stems from a number of maintenance and design issues, but the good news is that one of the major contributors is also the easiest to address: the toxic chemicals in conventional cleaning products. Ironically, schools that are trying to protect the comfort and health of children and staff with regular classroom and facility cleaning are inadvertently doing more harm than good. That’s because even when they’re advertised as “green” or “natural,” cleaning products can contain a toxic stew of chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to asthma, allergies, cancer, and harm to our reproductive and nervous systems.
Peer-reviewed studies have found that children who are frequently exposed to conventional cleaning products suffer higher rates of wheezing and asthma. With asthma forcing children to miss 14 million school days each year, asthma-attack-inducing chemicals have no place in our schools. Long-term research also shows that adults who clean their homes with conventional cleaning products cause as much damage to their lungs as if they smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. We would never tolerate classrooms filled with cigarette smoke – so why tolerate classrooms sprayed with hazardous chemicals? Schools should provide safer environments for our children and protect their health. For decades, Green Seal has been a vital resource for school districts, colleges, and universities across the country, helping to transform campuses into cleaner, healthier places to live, learn, and play. Nearly half of U.S. states and thousands of schools and healthcare facilities specify Green Seal as a trusted name that defines healthier products. Custodial teams know that Green Seal certified products deliver the same effectiveness as conventional ones – from cleaning products to paints, coatings, and construction materials.
Now, our Healthy Green Schools initiative is helping schools like Harvard University and Howard County Public Schools demonstrate that they are providing the healthiest indoor air quality for their students and staff. These schools and programs are achieving Green Seal certification for their cleaning programs to prove that they meet the highest standards of health and sustainability in the US. By meeting each and every requirement in Green Seal’s GS-42 Standard for Commercial and Institutional Cleaning Services, school cleaning teams are demonstrating leadership in key areas: green purchasing, green cleaning procedures, undergoing vital trainings, properly maintaining equipment, and helping our towns and cities reduce their environmental footprint through waste minimization practices. Every child has a right to learn in a place where they can thrive, and that means schools with safe, clean air to breathe. On Healthy Schools Day, school leaders can take the first step by making a district-wide commitment to purchase only certified green cleaning products and to provide Healthy Green Schools for all children.