Posted Online: April 20, 2008, 12:10 am
New law to make cleaning schools more environmentally friendly
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By Ben Botkin, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Bob Hofmann, a custodian at Aledo High School, cleans a hallway floor on Wednesday, April 16. A new state law will require school districts to buy cleaning supplies that are environmentally sensitive without harsher chemicals found in traditional cleaning products. The law goes into effect on May 10.
School districts in the Illinois Quad-Cities soon will need to make sure their cleaning supplies comply with a new state law.
The Green Clean Schools Act will require schools to use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Students and staff will have different hand soaps and paper towel dispensers in rest rooms.
"We are certainly going to have to change some of the products we use to clean," said Alan Boucher, superintendent of the Aledo School District.
The act will mean no more harsh chemicals that irritate people with breathing problems like asthma, he said. Electronic sensors on paper towel dispensers in rest rooms also will replace the hand levers that can carry germs, and hand soaps no longer will have a fragrance that bothers people with allergies.
First, districts will have to audit the cleaning supplies and methods within the next couple weeks. From there, districts will know what's needed.
From looking at preliminary prices, Mr. Boucher doesn't anticipate an increase in costs for making the switch.
The law goes into effect on May 10, and districts will be required to buy cleaning supplies with a third party certification showing they are environmentally friendly. Districts can continue using all their other cleaning supplies that were purchased before May 10.
The law's purpose is to provide a good environment for schools and limit exposure to toxic chemicals, said Mark Bishop, deputy director of Healthy Schools Campaign, a Chicago-based organization that helped lobby for the law.
"One of the reasons we try to focus on schools is because you're talking about a potentially vulnerable population," he said.
For example, students in first grade are more likely to touch or lick things like desk tops that are coated with cleaning supplies, he said.
"If it's replaced with something that is less toxic you can reduce these exposures," Mr. Bishop said.
Gary Eastman, supervisor of building operations for Rock Island/Milan School District, said he is in the process of talking with a supplier about what cleaning products to get.
"To me, I think it's a good idea," he said. "I think it's about time we started looking at our children's future and our health. We just want to make the schools a safe place."
Currently, the Iowa Department of Public Health has no environmental regulations for school cleaning supplies, said Polly Carver-Kimm, an agency spokeswoman.
The Bettendorf School District has asked its supplier in recent years for more environmentally friendly cleaning products, said John Campbell, the director of operations.