Monday, May 17, 2010

Toxic Cleaning Chemicals: Reducing Chemical Exposures at School

The use of toxic cleaning chemicals in your child’s school can have a big impact on his/her health. Many chemical exposures occur at school; the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently tested 21 cleaning products (many of which are regularly used in schools) and discovered that they release over 457 air contaminants, including chloroform and formaldehyde. These gaseous pollutants are linked to asthma and cancer, while many others are considered hazardous, with health risks that will only unfold in the future.

Over the past decade, the number of children with asthma has doubled, while childhood cancers have risen by 28 percent over the past two decades. Toxic cleaning chemicals in schools is affecting the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), as well as the frequency of chemical exposures in children. Multiple Chemical Sensitivities are becoming increasingly common worldwide, while the number of children with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome is expected to rise.

With these alarming statistics, it becomes obvious that children are left vulnerable to chemical exposures that may have both acute and long-term effects on their developing immune systems. Chemical exposures in children are far too common, and toxic cleaning chemicals are playing a leading role in this assault.

The use of toxic cleaning chemicals needs to stop. It is time to take stock of our habits and encourage schools to implement the use of green products into their housekeeping routines.   Children are more at risk of chemical exposures because their metabolic rate is higher. Also, children take more breaths than adults, and so their bodies are more susceptible to toxins.

At School, you child is faces exposure to airborne pollutants like:
· Pesticides (for pest control)
· Formaldehyde (Portable classrooms, furniture, carpets, flooring)
· Mold (leaky pipes, washrooms, etc.)
· Carbon monoxide (school buses, cars, etc.)
· Cleaning products (various hazardous variations)
· Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
· Animal dander and pollen

Schools built prior to 1980 may have lead, asbestos and even radon in their walls, while newer buildings and school furnishings may have formaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and other gaseous and particle pollutants. Toxic cleaning products add roughly 65 more recognized toxins and carcinogens to the ambient air your child inhales for most of their day. To limit chemical exposures at school, it seems a military gas mask should be added to the school supplies list.

Children spend 90 percent of their time indoors. For a child suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities this can mean hours of torture. MCS America recommends simple tips for schools and teachers:

1)Use green cleaning products- eliminate the use of toxic cleaning
all together

2)Fix leaky pipes and remove any materials that have been damaged by water

3)Clean the air ducts regularly, and employ the use of an air filtration
system equipped with inert materials and many pounds of activated carbon

4)Implement a fragrance and smoke free policy

5)Make sure that school buses are not located in an area where air is
vented into the school.

6)If a classroom was remodeled within the last 3 years, keep your MCS
student out of there

7)In the event of a reaction, remove the student from the source and them
to fresh air immediately

8)Find out what happened for avoidance purposes

9)Be patient with your student

Avoid Portable Classrooms at All Costs

Student populations are growing in the U.S.A and as a result, the number of portable classrooms is growing. These portable classrooms have caused quite the stir among teacher’s unions and parent committees because of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) concerns.

Studies show that these classrooms have high concentrations of air pollutants like mold, formaldehyde and VOCs. Not only can a student with Multiple chemical sensitivities not step foot into these classrooms, regular students can develop multiple chemical sensitivities and other chronic diseases through repeated exposures to these hazardous airborne pollutants.

Consequently, the EPA has developed the IAQ Tools For Schools Award Program that encourages educational facilities to improve their IAQ, which can mean eliminating toxic cleaning chemicals, implementing the use of an air purifier in classrooms, and limiting their use of pesticides.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities threaten the health and happiness of children across the globe. As parents, it’s time to take this threat very seriously. Say no to toxic cleaning chemicals, your children deserve better.


  1. Children spend far more time at home than they do at school. Additionally, the rates of illness in children under 5 have also increased. They haven't even been to school. It is time to look at the home as the source of the chemical exposure.

    The California Air Resources Board's report published December 15, 2009 states:

    "Nearly all homes (98%) had formaldehyde concentrations that exceeded guidelines for cancer and chronic irritation..."

    Researcher's PowerPoint:

    Testing for formaldehyde is easy and inexpensive using a passive acs badge. This was the method the Sierra Club used to discover the FEMA trailers.

    California recommends not exceeding 7 ppb; studies show decreased lung function in children at 30 ppb; and increase in asthma at 50 ppb. The 100 ppb is an occupational limit that assumes 8-hours/day; 5-days/week; and healthy adults. Longer exposure require lower concentration. Children are more sensitive also requiring a lower concentration.

  2. This is an excellent article. I'm working on getting this information out to parents and teachers and will refer people to your article. Together we can make a difference, one spray bottle at a time!