Manteca Schools Make the Switch to Green Cleaners
What would you do if you discovered that ordinary cleaning supplies used in California schools were fouling classroom air with toxic airborne contaminants, including some that have been linked to childhood asthma and cancer? Well, a study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows just that: "Laboratory tests done for EWG found that a typical assortment of cleaning products released 457 distinct chemicals into the air."
A growing number of schools are responding to scientific reports like EWG's with action. We're happy to report that Manteca Unified School District (MUSD) is one of them: They no longer use traditional cleaning supplies.
Switching to Green Cleaners with CLASS: Manteca Unified recently completed the transition to green cleaning practices as part of the Cleaning for Asthma Safe Schools (CLASS) Pilot Project. This six-month project, developed through a partnership of the Green Schools Initiative and the California Department of Public Health's Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program, helps to safeguard workers’ and students’ health through the use of less-toxic cleaning products. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among school-aged children, and is the leading cause nationwide of school absences due to chronic illness.
The MUSD, located in California's Central Valley -- an area known for both air pollution and high rates of childhood asthma -- received a $4,500 mini-grant from CLASS to help them make the move to healthier cleaning practices, along with information on green products, and best practices training. Custodians, facilities managers and purchasing staff collaborated on testing products to ensure acceptable performance, price, and safety.
What Do They Use Now? MUSD selected Envirox, a hydrogen-peroxide-based cleaner, to replace many of their disinfectants.They are replacing many of their glass and multipurpose cleaners with ActiveIon, a cleaning device that creates electrolyzed water: it uses a battery to split apart water molecules so that the negatively charged hydrogen atoms work as a surfactant to remove dirt. (Sounds like fodder for a great science lesson, too!)
Other CLASS pilot school districts include Long Beach Unified, Alameda Unified, and the California Conservation Corps network of charter schools. Green Schools Initiative and the California Department of Public Health are supporting these districts and charter school networks to identify and test less-toxic certified cleaning products, best practices for cleaning, and less-toxic EPA-registered disinfectants to help reduce environmental asthma triggers.
Better Health and Money Saved: "Our district has been pursuing many green initiatives," said Victoria Brunn, Sustainability Coordinator for the district's L.O.G.I.C. committee (Leadership On Green Initiatives Committee). "So, the CLASS project (administered by Dawn Everson, MUSD purchasing agent) to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals from cleaning products fit right in. Using the ActiveIon equipment is helping us eliminate the purchase of several chemical cleaning products and saving us money. The trainings made our custodial staff much more aware of how cleaning products can affect their own health and the health of our students. We had several custodians with asthma
and they are breathing easier now. They are really excited about being 'green' leaders in our school."
A Smaller Footprint: Manteca USD's participation in CLASS also decreased the district's environmental footprint. All of the cleaning products now in use by the school are certified to meet stringent environmentally preferable criteria: They have fewer smog-producing chemicals, are free of ozone-depleting chemicals, less toxic to aquatic life, degrade quickly in the environment, and are more concentrated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. The products must even meet criteria concerning recyclable packaging.
Manteca Unified is proud to be making strides in greening, and looks forward to working with the whole school community to continue to grow their green initiatives.
Get Your School or District to Make the Switch! Schools interested in learning more about how to make the switch to green cleaners can contact Deborah Moore, Executive Director at Green Schools Initiative: email@example.com or 510-525-1026; or Debbie Shrem of the Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program, Healthy Schools Cleaning Project, Impact Assessment, Inc., California Department of Public Health: firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-620-5762.
Information about how schools can make the switch to less-toxic cleaning products is available here: Green Cleaning Toolkit
Information about the CLASS project from the CA Dept of Public Health