“Conventional” cleaning products – including air fresheners and disinfectants – can contain toxic chemicals that harm human health and the environment. Fortunately, safer cleaning supplies have become readily available at comparable prices.
Studies have linked exposure to certain toxic chemicals found in conventional cleaning supplies with an array of health effects that can impair a child’s ability to grow, learn, play, and become a productive working adult. For example, exposure to toxic cleaning products can induce asthma. Nearly 10,000 out of Vermont’s 94,000 school children have asthma. Although children are more vulnerable than adults, teachers and custodians have also been found to have higher rates of asthma than the general workforce. In addition to asthma, conventional cleaning products have been linked to negative health effects including:
- Reproductive damage
- Endocrine and hormone disruption
- Birth defects
- Learning disabilities
How we’re exposed
Until recently, conventional cleaning products were commonly used in Vermont schools, posing an unnecessary health risk. Chemicals in cleaners cause poor indoor air quality in schools, thereby contributing to lower productivity and academic achievement. Pound for pound, children breathe more air than adults. In addition to being exposed by airborne chemicals, children have frequent hand-to-mouth contact, which can lead to accidental ingestion of harmful chemicals found in cleaning supplies.
“Green-cleaning” legislation was enacted in 2012, making Vermont the tenth state to pass legislation making schools safer and healthier by requiring manufacturers and distributors to only sell “environmentally preferable cleaning products” to Vermont schools. Vermont government buildings have had a similar mandate since 2004, and many schools had started to voluntarily switch to these safer products. This legislation means all Vermont schoolchildren, teachers and staff now have healthier school environments.