In this age of swine flu hysteria, most parents care more about the dangers of germs than they do about the dangers of the products we use to kill those germs. But what many folks don't realize is that it is entirely possible to get schools clean without using a laundry list of toxic chemicals ... chemicals that in the end may do more harm for our children than good.

A new study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that ordinary school cleaning supplies can expose children to multiple chemicals linked to asthma, cancer and other documented health problems and to hundreds of other air contaminants that have never been tested for safety. Laboratory tests done for EWG found that a typical assortment of cleaning products released 457 distinct chemicals into the air. For example, Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser, a product commonly used in both schools and private homes, released more than 100 air contaminants, including chloroform, benzene and formaldehyde.

Eight states (Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Nevada, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri and Maine) have passed legislation requiring or encouraging use of these green cleaning products in schools. Many other forward-thinking school districts have adopted green cleaning policies, replacing toxic products with safer, effective alternatives with no increase in costs. Where is your school district in the process? It may be time to ask.  

EWG has some great resources for talking to your school about green cleaning on the website and the Healthy Schools Campaign has a guide called The Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools that you can download for free. So go ahead, arm yourself with the info and then go clear the air at your child's school.

Photo: LMackay

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