The Green Seal Standard
Cleaning products typically used in schools contain carcinogens, reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, and chemicals that cause asthma. Custodians and teachers suffer from asthma at much higher rates than the general working population, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The rates are attributed in part to exposure to chemical cleaning products.
In California, nearly a million children have asthma, which is the main cause of hospitalization for children under 15, and is the primary cause of school absenteeism from a chronic illness. Cleaning chemicals are also routinely washed down the drain where they make their way into drinking water, lakes and streams, adversely affecting plant and animal life, and threatening public health.
Green Seal has recently released updated standards for green cleaners. In the absence of government regulation for green products, Green Seal provides independent third-party certification for green cleaners – sort of like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.” This means that Green Seal standards represent a leadership standard; are created independent of manufacturers or government regulators through a transparent stakeholder process; and are published and available to the public.
These standards, referred to as “GS 37,” are voluntary, and are not required by government. Such standards make it possible for schools to more easily find products that are "green" without having to get into the business of chemical analysis. According to Green Seal, “The standard is now more protective of vulnerable populations and reflects advancements made by industry since the last update of the standard.” The National Collaborative Work Group on Green Cleaning and Chemical Policy Reform in Schools - of which Green Schools Initiative is a member - has worked to help improve Green Seal's GS 37 criteria for certifying institutional/industrial cleaning products as "green" and "healthy."
The group commends Green Seal “for its extraordinary efforts that engaged hundreds of concerned stakeholders, as well as the public, and various science advisers in a work plan that [took] more than 20 months of concerted effort.” The Work Group is especially pleased that asthmagens (chemicals that cause asthma) and phthalates will be eliminated from GS 37 products. The new standard tightens restrictions for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and pH levels while continuing to prohibit carcinogens and reproductive toxins.
For information on green cleaners for your school, go to the Green Schools Initiative’s Buying Guide, or click on the "Find Green Products" button at left.