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EWG School Cleaning Supplies Report

A test of cleaning chemicals used in public schools conducted by the Environmental Working Group

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Give me one good reason toxic chemicals should be used for cleaning schools

  • Jan 28, 2010
We often wonder just how bad household cleaners are for children's health. Can they be that bad? Do they really help cause asthma? A little can't hurt, right? Well, EWG gives you a pretty good idea of the answers to those questions and just how much household cleaners affect the air we breathe. (note: my rating of -5 refers to the results of this report, not to the fact that EWG did a fabulous job with it!)

EWG tested over 20 cleaners used in California schools and found that they released over 457 chemicals - many not listed by the manufacturer. You'll find that Febreeze contains acetaldehyde, which is on the California's Prop 65 List for cancer and reproductive toxicity. You'll also find that Comet contains formaldehyde and seven cancer causing ingredients from that same list. Reason enough to get rid of it now

It is perfectly legal for manufacturers to hide the ingredients in their toxic potions. If we have the right to know what is in our food and skin care products we need to demand to know what is in cleaning products as well. We breathe this stuff and eat off of surfaces treated with these potions. The least you can do is buy non-toxic cleaners and protect your family's health, but we should take action as well to demand responsibility from ruthless companies.

To make maters worse, children are especially sensitive to toxic chemicals. Our government does not protect them. Many states have their own legislation for safe cleaning products in schools, but 
things need to change on the federal level.

Well, there is one good thing - we live in a country where [as of today] we have the right to choose the non-toxic alternatives, even if that means paying a buck more. 

These toxic chemicals are used to clean your kids' schools across the country. 
Do you see something wrong with that?

This article has also been published on Eco-Babyz
Give me one good reason toxic chemicals should be used for cleaning schools Give me one good reason toxic chemicals should be used for cleaning schools

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June 14, 2011
White vinegar is great for floors where pets walk.
December 16, 2010
Erm ... don't toxic chemicals kill germs?
December 16, 2010
Yes, they do. But they kill a lot more than that. Humans have thousands of germs on them, but the thing is there are 'good' germs as well that protect us. When we kill all of them, our immune system is open to attack. Toxic chemicals are not something to be messed with. The rates of childhood asthma and leukemia are skyrocketing, it is not normal. There is a myriad of ways to disinfect with natural means (some actually much more effective than man made chemicals), among those is hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil (all you need is a few drops diluted in water or vinegar), oregano oil, and thyme. These will not kill people along with germs. :) Instead of using something already found in nature, people invent things that destroy their own health. 
December 16, 2010
Hmm. Ok. I didn't realize that. I've worked temporarily in a vet clinic where certain alternatives are used to kill germs, but I honestly never thought of that application to dealing with human germs. Maybe I'm naive, but I can live with it.

Are these alternatives to killing germs equally cost effective?  Don't get me wrong, but so much of running businesses (and, yes, school is sadly still a business) is predicated on it being cost-effective.  I would think that if they were cheaper alternatives then that would certainly be a win-win scenario for all involved.

Also, I think there have been plenty of things invented that have improved health.  I understand where you're coming from, but sometimes invention is a necessary part of improving the standards of living.

Sorry, I'm not a parent, so I'm not up on the skyrocketing rates of asthma and leukemia.  I do know from personal experience that asthma rates have shown noticeable spikes in certain geographic territories, but I wasn't aware that it was a national crisis.
December 20, 2010
I pretty sure hydrogen peroxide would not be expensive, if anything maybe even less expensive than the more toxic equivalents. I'm not sure about diluted tea tree, oregano, or thyme. I do know that many schools are switching to healthier alternatives when the parents demand it and show them proof that chemicals do cause harm. There are currently 7.1 million children with asthma in the U.S., that's 9.6%. Of course schools are not the only contributing factor, when you take into account air pollution (especially in cities), and more cleaning chemicals used by parents at home - we're surrounded by toxins 24/7. I'm not paranoid about it, but I use non-toxic cleaners in our home (one's that I would not need to call poison control if my daughter finds them), I don't let my two year old stand behind an idle car, and we try to get plenty of fresh air. :) Incidentally, since we switched to natural cleaning products, my husband and I get fewer headaches as well!
August 31, 2012
I agree.
March 01, 2010
Excellent review. It's sick the way these companies are more concerned with their profits than with their customers' health.
March 02, 2010
Thanks! Yes, sure is. I doubt they actually use the products they make!
March 03, 2010
They probably don't. That actually reminds me of an article I read a while back that had quotes from farmers saying that they wouldn't even eat the potatoes they grow commercially because of all the pesticides and such, because, since they had first-hand experience, they knew how bad it was. They said that they grew their own organic potatoes on separate land to feed themselves and their families with. It's a little different than household cleaners, but it just goes to show that sometimes these companies are aware of the dangers of their products.
March 03, 2010
Yes, along the same lines. Just like the people who make vaccines and say they would never use it on themselves and their children. I don't understand how all these people can live with that on their conscience!
March 03, 2010
Nor do I.
February 02, 2010
You would cringe if you came into my house. :(  I use Febreze AND Comet...in fact, I just commented to a friend about how much I like Comet and asked why I hadn't used it in so many years.

Have you made a list of non-toxic replacements?  It would probably be a huge hit coming from EcoMama herself!

Thanks for the review!
February 03, 2010
Hey, I used to be in your place. Before I got pregnant I never thought about what is toxic or not. Not that you should get pregnant to switch to non-toxic cleaning products :P lol

That is a really great idea for a list! Thank you! I'll have to get on that :)
January 28, 2010
And to think that we spray Febreeze on everything we touch...our couches, carpets, clothing, everything! That is very scary. Thanks for the informative review. I'm sharing this on Twitter.
January 28, 2010
You're welcome!
January 28, 2010
I would tend to agree with you for the most part. There are no many non-toxic cleaners available that certainly were not around when I was a kid. Seems like using these products just makes good sense.
January 28, 2010
Thanks, yes the options have opened up tremendously in the past few years. I also think that the more consumers 'vote with their wallets' and choose non-toxic alternatives, the more large companies will try to make more natural cleaners. Competition is good in this case, it would bring the prices down too. Though greenwashing is abundant as well :)
About the reviewer
Anastasia B ()
Ranked #22
I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a Christ follower, an Interior Designer, a blog author, a cook, an artist, an eco-conscious consumer, a nature lover, … more
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EWG's air pollution tests of school cleaning supplies detected hundreds of contaminants, including six that cause asthma, 11 tied to cancer in people, and many more that have never been evaluated for safety.

Further testing shows that cleaning a model classroom using 3 widely used, certified green products produces far less air pollution than cleaning the same classroom with 3 common conventional cleaners.

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