When people use cleaning products with natural ingredients and few -- if any -- chemicals, they are typically aware of the impact their choice has on the environment.

But several recent studies on indoor air quality demonstrate a connection between green cleaning and productivity. Studies have shown that green cleaning reduces absenteeism, thereby boosting worker and student productivity. After all, if you are not suffering from headaches or asthma-like symptoms due to inhaling toxic cleaning fumes, or acquiring rashes from exposure to cleaners, you’re healthy enough to spend more time at work and school.

According to data gathered by researchers at the California-based Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Resource Bank, “Work performance may be improved from a few percent to possibly as much as 10 percent by providing superior indoor environmental quality (IEQ). The economic benefits of the work performance improvements will often far outweigh the costs of providing better IEQ.”

Just what is “superior indoor environmental quality”? Think about your optimal work environment, which includes well-ventilated air at the right temperature (around 70 degrees), free from mold, dust and other allergens, with no chemical fumes or particles to cause headaches or other ailments. When employers at a workplace or school make an effort to create this environment, morale goes up – and, therefore, productivity. And when the indoor air quality is uncomfortable and filled with toxic fumes? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that poor quality indoor air may cost the nation tens of billions of dollars annually in lost productivity and medical care.

Statistics cut across both schools and workplaces. For example, poor indoor air quality in school buildings has led to an increased diagnosis of asthma in children, whose bodies are still developing. Asthma attacks are one of the top reasons children are absent from school, according to several educational studies. But teachers and other school workers also become ill from dust and other particles in the air, and from breathing in fumes from cleaning supplies and mold. In fact, in a 2002 study of teachers in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, more than one-third of teachers in Chicago and more than one-quarter of teachers in D.C., reported health problems from their school buildings, which also meant missed workdays.

Data from the Berkeley National Laboratory also points to a measured difference in performance – from four percent to 16 percent -- on office tasks such as typing and addition when indoor “pollutant sources” were removed.

Green building and green cleaning significantly improves the environment, the building itself and its inhabitants: A 2002 study by the Lawrence Berkley National Design Laboratory found that the improved air quality by use of green design, building materials and technologies can lower sick building symptoms by 20 percent to 50 percent, while cold and flu are reduced by nine percent to 20 percent, and allergies and asthma drop by eight percent to 25 percent.

Though cleaning in general certainly helps with dust and mold, it often is what is used to clean that results in “sick buildings” and sick people. Therefore, less toxic substances such as vinegar, citrus and water make for purer cleaning choices – which keep workers’ lungs and bodies pure as well.

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