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If you have kids, you know the importance of protecting planet home by avoiding toxic cleaners and other chemical products. There's just one hole in this theory: For much of the year, we send our children off to school buildings where the environment is less than healthy.
According to the Healthy Schools Network's recently released National Sick Schools 2009 Report (pdf), 57% of public schools have at least one unsatisfactory environmental factor. Some 55 million kids attend a public or private K-12 school where bad air quality, toxic chemicals and other unhealthy conditions are making them sick or handicapping their ability to learn. In many of these schools it's the chemicals doing this dirty work; toxic cleaners, floor waxes, pest control products, and other dangerous things we refuse to bring into our homes.
The good news is that educators are waking up and smelling the VOCs. More and more states are passing badly needed laws that require schools and other public buildings to use safe and healthy cleaning products. Ten states now encourage or insist upon the use of green cleaners in schools and five more are expected to debate the subject in 2010.
The push to detoxify our schools has received some predictable push-back. Some school administrators and purchasing departments complain that green cleaners cost too much or don't work as well. But these arguments for sticking with chemical cleaners are misguided. Green alternatives cost about the same as conventional chemical cleaners, and many work just as well. In any case, a small additional expense now seems a better choice than the catastrophic costs later of chronically ill kids, extra staff sick days, and all the other problems toxic environments can trigger. Any math teacher can tell you it's a no-brainer.
What schools and states need from parents is support. The job of greening our school environments will be a lot easier and will happen a lot faster if we voice our concern and insist on changes. So check the Healthy Schools Network for what we each can do to make sure that when our kids go to school they won't be learning about the dangers of chemical products the hard way. And join the Million Baby Crawl to help Seventh Generation convince lawmakers to support toxic chemical reform.