Green Cleaning Benefits
The purpose of any green cleaning program is to lessen the impact of cleaners on people and the environment. Using all-natural green cleaning products keeps harmful chemicals out of the air we breathe and out of our rivers and streams, where it can cause ecological damage for years.
Americans spend most of their time indoors. Yet, indoor air quality is rated worse than outdoor air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency rates indoor air quality as one of the Top 5 health risks to Americans, saying indoor air is 3 to 5 times as harmful as outdoor air. It’s estimated that poor air quality in office buildings and other work environments costs businesses $20 billion in workers’ compensation claims each year.
Cleaning products used by janitorial companies are a major contributor to the poor air quality inside buildings. One out of three cleaning chemicals contains ingredients known to cause human health or environmental problems. A study conducted by the Janitorial Products Pollution Prevention Project found that the average janitor uses 48 pounds of hazardous chemicals per year.
Many commercial products contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can lead to headaches, breathing problems, and other symptoms in building occupants.
Some cleaning products contain cancer-causing carcinogens and other chemicals that have been linked to reproductive organ damage, birth defects, kidney damage and neurological problems.
The detrimental health impact from harsh cleaning chemicals is particularly noticeable in janitors, who work with cleaning products daily on the job. Janitors tend to experience rates of occupational asthma twice that of other professions. A study by Washington State showed that 6% suffer job-related injuries from exposure to chemical cleaners each year.
But they are not the only ones exposed to unhealthy indoor air. The EPA has estimated that as many as 30% of office workers experience health problems from unhealthy air in buildings, also known as Sick Building Syndrome.
Switching to green cleaning products can greatly reduce health problems and related costs.
Harsh chemicals also take their toll on our environment. By doing something as simple as cleaning a sink or bathtub with Ajax, you’re sending chemicals into the sewer system and eventually into streams and waterways. Chemicals build up over time. Chemicals commonly found in janitorial products such as nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) degrade slowly and actually become more toxic as they degrade. Other ingredients don’t break down at all and can harm organisms in our rivers and streams for decades to come.
Cleaning products with heavy chemicals and fragrances that are water-based pose threats in these vulnerable environments with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These emitted chemical gases from certain solids or liquids contain short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are sometimes up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors. These levels are dangerous for those who frequent the building as well as the users of the products containing VOCs, like janitorial staff. VOCs released from cleaning products also lead to smog in our outdoor air. Greg Norris, a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, has stated that “the amount of VOCs from a single waxing of a floor can equal or exceed the VOCs emitted from the flooring materials over the life of those flooring materials.” And when we consider that a floor could get stripped and waxed one, two or three times a year — that’s a lot of VOCs, especially when we are doing it over the next 50 years!
But this is all preventable by switching from harsh cleaners to all-natural green cleaning janitorial programs that sanitize and kill bacteria without harming people or the planet.