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Here in the Green Mountain State, the Alliance for a Safe and Healthy Vermont, a broad coalition that includes environmental groups, health advocates, businesses, and organized labor, is advocating legislation that would require schools to use environmentally preferable cleaning products. The Vermont Senate passed the bill unanimously and advocates are now working to push a version of the bill through the House of Representatives.
A law with similar aims is already on the books in New York and measures to promote green cleaning in schools are in the works in jurisdictions around the country.
And with good cause.
A study by the Environmental Working Group (pdf) found that cleaning supplies used in 13 California school districts emit more than 450 toxic substances, including 6 chemicals linked to asthma and 11 known, probable, or possible carcinogens.
Evidence is emerging that policies to address air quality in classrooms, such as using safer cleaning products, can have a very positive effect. According to a factsheet by the Alliance, Montpelier High School in Vermont's capital city "saw a 50% reduction in asthma cases and a 30% reduction in other complaints including headaches, nausea, and cold symptoms." The Alliance cites other examples from New Hampshire to California showing improvements in children's health when their schools implement programs to improve indoor air quality.
And in times of continuing pressure on school budgets, it is also good to know schools making the switch to greener industrial cleaning supplies are finding they don't cost any more than conventional ones. The experience in New York State over the past three years of implementing their law is that green cleaning products don't cost more and work as effectively. The Randolph, Vermont, school district actually saved money by replacing a whole storeroom full of conventional cleaning products with just four main products as part of their green cleaning program.
To create immediate change, pick up extra Seventh Generation cleaners and send to school with your student!