What Cleaning Products are Used in Your School?

Greening Your Cleaning Fact Sheet

Did you know?

  • Ingredients in traditional cleaners used in schools can harm your child’s health and the health of staff, visitors and peers.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that 19% of all cancers are environmentally related.
  • Common cleaning chemicals can cause headaches, asthma, burns, permanent eye damage, major organ damage, and even cancer.
  • Children are especially affected by cleaning products, as kids breathe and play closer to the ground, where contaminants settle. They also have frequent hand-to-mouth activity, giving them many opportunities to ingest contaminants in their environment.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that 30% of all buildings experience indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. Cleaning products can be a key contributor.
  • Manufacturers are not required to list ingredients that make up less than 0.1% of listed carcinogens or 1% of listed OSHA chemicals. Even these small amounts can harm human health.

Health Concerns Associated with Traditional Cleaning Products

Glass Cleaners:

Common Ingredients Known or Potential Health Effects

Isopropyl alcohol -

  • Can irritate skin and eyes. Acute Health Effects – can irritate and burn skin and eyes in addition to nose and throat irritation.
  • Overexposure can cause headache, drowsiness, confusion, loss of coordination, unconsciousness and death.

Ammonia -

  • Can irritate skin, eyes, nose and throat.
  • Higher exposures can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema).

All-Purpose Cleaners:

Common Ingredients Known or Potential Health Effects

2-butoxyethanol -

  • Can irritate eyes, nose, throat and mouth.
  • Acute Health Effects – can cause headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion and passing out.
  • Chronic Health Effects – may damage the developing fetus and may damage the testes (male reproductive glands).

Bathroom Cleaners:

Common Ingredients Known or Potential Health Effects

Sodium hypochlorite/chlorine -Bleach

  • Can affect breathing. Contact may severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes with possible eye damage.
  • Can irritate lungs causing coughing and/or shortness of breath. Higher exposures can cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema), a medical emergency, with severe shortness of breath.
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