Green cleaning scene coming to schools
Published 5:35 pm, Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Parents can rest easy in the not-so-distant future, knowing the worst of the potentially hazardous chemical cleaning products will be eliminated from Fairfield Public Schools. A policy that proposes eliminating by July 1 contaminants that affect children and adult health, performance and attendance, is expected to be voted on by the Board of Education (BOE) on Oct. 12.
"I think going green is a good thing," said Board of Education (BOE) member Perry Liu. "It's a great extension of education and our setting an example of taking care of our environment and the earth."
A first reading of the green cleaning policy -- which is mandated by the state -- took place at last week's BOE meeting. However, due to a full agenda that included grandfathering options for a new middle school level feeder pattern, as well as a vote on a new breathalyzer policy, board members did not delve into the item. Information on the green cleaning program that was available at the meeting stated cleaning chemicals can negatively impact indoor air quality and cause harm to the occupants of a school building. The Green Cleaning Policy, once adopted, will require the use of cleaning products that meet the guidelines or standards set by a national or international certification program approved by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) in consulation with the commissioner of Department of Environmental Protection in order to minimize the potential harmful effects on human health and the environment.
PTA Council President Mary Hogue said the green cleaning policy is very important to parents, many of whom are very eco-conscious. Hogue noted there is a PTA "green team" in every school in Fairfield.
There are PTA parents who have children with allergies or asthma and who believe healthier cleaning products might improve their child's well being. While it can't be proven that this or that cleaning product is causing or worsening the reaction, Hogue said, it's always better to err on the side of caution, to "err on the side of less chemicals and less toxicity."
While the new policy will not elimate all potentially harmful chemicals, the switch to environmentally preferable cleaning products will at least "reduce exposure," according to the policy text. Such products will "have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose." Products would include, among others, general purpose cleaners, bathroom cleaners, glass and carpet cleaners, hand cleaners and soaps, and floor finishes and strippers. Excluded are any disinfectants, disinfecting cleaner, sanitizer or any other antimicrobial products regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodentcide Act. Also excluded are products for which no guidelines or environmental standard has been established by any national or international certification program approved by the DAS.
BOE member John Mitola sees no problem with the proposed policy.
"I think it's a good idea. To the extent that we can use natural type products to clean our schools, then that's the way we should go," he said. "And that's the trend everywhere."
Mitola added it will mean less chemicals going into the ground and into the water. "Having chemicals that help move us more away from that is a step in the right direction," he said.
While there could be a cost increase with making the switch, Mitola said the positives will outweigh the negative.
"If it's going to have a positive effect, not only on the children's health, but also their education, then it's worthwhile," he said.
Sue Brand, BOE chairman, said the new policy helps to foster "our role of education" and "sets a really great example for the kids that are in the schools."
Brand told the Fairfield Citizen she's been making the effort to be more green in her home for some time. She uses baking soda and vinegar to clean many areas of her house, as opposed to using products that have bleach in them. Brand also uses re-usable shopping bags when she goes to the grocery store or clothes shopping.
"I've been making small changes over time to try to be more environmentally conscious," she said, and noted the school district is now moving in the same direction.
School staff and parents and guardians can request a written copy of the policy. A copy will also be posted on the school district's website, www.fairfield.k12.ct.us