If you happen to see a commercial for a traditional cleaner on television, you’ll notice that many of the products that are being sold have a pine tree scent, or smell like fresh lemons, or whatever else they think will help sell their product. But, what are you actually getting with these added fragrances in traditional cleaners? According to this article from Destination Green, what you may be getting is some potentially serious health problems.
Many Green chemical manufacturers now remove fragrances from their products, according to Stephen Ashkin, President of The Ashkin Group and long considered “the father of Green Cleaning.”
“There is a very real reason for this. For some people, the fragrance found in these and other products can be as problematic to health as secondhand smoke.”
However, Ashkin says it is not necessarily the fragrance that may produce adverse health impacts. “Instead, it is often because some of these product fragrances have been produced from petroleum or made from ingredients such as acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate, and limonene, all of which can harm human health.”
Public health officials report there are four categories of health effects due to fragrances. These are:
1. Respiratory, including allergic asthma, nonallergic asthma, and reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
2. Neurological, which includes headaches, migraines, nausea, dizziness, and confusion
3. Skin irritation
4. Eye irritation, tearing, and inflammation
Adverse reactions to fragrances also cost the U.S. economy more than $25 billion annually in absenteeism due to illness as well as reduced worker productivity.*
Because of this, Ashkin suggests the following steps that employers can take to help reduce the amount of fragrances found in the workplace:
· Select fabrics, upholstery, and carpets that have reduced “off-gassing” levels, and install them on the weekend, allowing time for off-gassing to dissipate.
· Strongly recommend that employees refrain from wearing perfumes and colognes.
· Limit the use of some automatic air fresheners; increase air ventilation in restrooms and foodservice areas.
· Use office air purifiers.
· Have indoor air regularly tested by an industrial hygiene professional.
· Create scent-free zones and meeting rooms.
· Educate all staffers about why exposure to scented products can be a problem.
· Select Green Cleaning chemicals; most are fragrance free.
“And take fragrance complaints seriously, even if just from one office worker,” adds Ashkin. “It is more likely than not that many others are also being impacted.”
Over the past few decades green cleaning has become much more than many people had expected. Once viewed as nothing more than passing fad or even a joke, green cleaning has evolved into a major movement that is continuously improving our way of life, health, and the environment. From households to large businesses, “going green” has become the norm. In this article from Services, they discuss the evolution of green cleaning, from where it began, to where it is now and where it is going.
The Evolution of Green Cleaning
When the concept of green cleaning began to gain momentum in the 1990s, many people considered it to be a joke. Its proponents were part of a larger cultural wave that sought to curb the hedonistic consumerism of the 1980s with a shift towards more environmentally-conscious consumption. You may recall that the ‘90s is when we saw an increased interest in things like recyclable packaging, natural foods, preserving the rainforests, and protecting endangered species. This is not to say that there wasn’t an interest in health and environmental issues prior to this time, but as the new millennium approached, there was a heightened awareness of the fragility of the environment and a widespread sense that society as a whole needed to take action before it was “too late.” Environmental statistics predicted dire consequences that would befall our planet if we didn’t heed their warnings and continued our destructive habits.
The “green” cleaning products developed in response to this environmental call-to-arms were full of more idealism than efficacy. They didn’t clean well, and their claims of being green were essentially meaningless, since EPA guidelines were notoriously lax. These products were disregarded within the cleaning industry because they simply weren’t effective. Green cleaning was a wellintentioned fad among consumers that companies used as a marketing ploy for their benefit. For many of us, our view of green products and practices is still tainted by this early disillusionment, and we have never fully taken the green cleaning movement seriously since then. Sure, we may support certain practices or products but I believe that, on the whole, we’ve held back from giving the green cleaning movement our full vote of confidence. More importantly, we have not seen evidence that our consumers are taking it seriously. It is marketable, but only to a limited few. Though this caution was certainly justified a decade ago, the green cleaning movement has evolved so far since then that we cannot afford to ignore or belittle it anymore. What has given the green cleaning and the green movement as a whole such staying power?
The Facts of Life
There was a time when people consumed products that were marketed to them without much thought. People assumed that the products they bought were safe. People drank soda, microwaved their food, and bought produce covered in pesticides without much knowledge or care of any negative side effects. This has all changed in recent years as health concerns, such as increasing rates of diabetes, cancer, food allergies, and the like have forced even the most un-“health conscious” among us to reexamine our American lifestyle. People now want to know about the origins of the products they use and consume, and there is a marked difference in their attitude. We have become active, not passive, consumers asking questions they never would’ve thought to ask 10 years ago: “What are all those unpronounceable ingredients listed on this food label?” Ignorance is no longer bliss.
Cleaning and Health
In terms of our industry, one of the most common health concerns are cleaning products and possible links to cancer. Organizations like the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of California estimate that one in six people will develop some form of cancer within their lifetime. These numbers are likely to continue to rise just as they have over the past 20 years. Though there are many factors that contribute to the growing number of cancer diagnoses—improved means of detection, longer life spans, more awareness, etc—the cancers being diagnosed are increasingly associated with environmental toxins (i.e. contaminants in our environment that are harmful to our health). Increasing cancer rates, especially among younger generations, have made consumers wary of the chemicals used around them on a daily basis. Cleaning products are an obvious target for scrutiny, since they comprise some of the most toxic chemicals in any household.
With this heightened awareness of the negative effects of chemicals, consumers are turning their eye to green cleaning as a means to safeguard their health. Within the cleaning industry, many of us are already aware that green cleaning is just as much about using alternative processes as it is about products. Practices, such as team cleaning and recycling, help reduce electricity, water use, and the amount of trash sent to landfills.
While consumers are certainly concerned with environmental health and sustainability, the real momentum behind the rise of green cleaning is rooted in a concern for personal health. People want to know that they aren’t going to be harmed by the chemicals used to clean the buildings they inhabit eight hours per day. If you haven’t had customers cross-question you about the chemicals you use, you will—it’s only a matter of time. There is large movement towards “detoxifying” life on every level. The food industry has thus far borne the brunt of this focus. (In the recent election, for example, California had a proposition on the ballot to require food manufacturers to list all genetically modified ingredients.) Similarly, the spotlight will also continue to intensify on the cleaning industry and its product manufacturers.
Cleaning chemical manufacturers already disclose their product ingredients on material safety data sheets, but this is no longer enough. No customer wants to comb through these tedious documents. What they want from you, and what they will increasingly pressure you to give, is a commitment to using health-conscious products and practices. They want you to assure them that the cleaning agents you use are as natural as possible. If you aren’t able to do this, some of your customers will undoubtedly switch to a company that can. The key to providing exceptional service is the ability to anticipate your customers’ needs before they themselves are fully aware of them. This societal shift is obvious enough that its inevitable impact on the janitorial industry should come as no surprise.
Even without consumer pressure, green cleaning is making more and more sense. Many green products work just as well as their toxic counterparts, not to mention the fact that an established green cleaning program is a prerequisite for LEED certification. Legitimate reasons for resisting green cleaning are steadily dwindling. Some trends within society come and go, while others have enough momentum to permanently alter the cultural landscape. Green cleaning is part of a larger focus on health that is reshaping our society, our lifestyles, and our business.
Several years ago, there were many people who thought “going green” was just a passing fad. Today, however, even major companies such as Walmart are now starting to get on board with the whole movement. As you’ll read in this article from Huffington Post, Walmart now has a policy which will rid many of the harsh chemicals, which can harm people, pets, and the environment, from household and personal products.
What’s In Your Home? New Walmart Policy Promises Safer Ingredients In Household And Personal Care Products
Ever worry about what’s in that cleaner you just sprayed all over the house? What about the shampoo your kids use each night? Today, an overwhelming number of products on store shelves and in our homes contain chemicals known to pose health risks to humans. Thanks to a new chemicals policy just announced by Walmart, American consumers are a step closer to having safer, healthier items in their homes.
It may surprise you that Walmart is leading the retail industry in eliminating hazardous chemicals from household products. Under the guidance of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Walmart has committed to taking steps that will move the entire industry — from manufacturers to retailers — towards producing and stocking safer products on shelves across America.
At Walmart’s Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting, the company unveiled a new policy on chemicals, calling for expanded ingredient disclosure and targeting about ten key chemicals of concern for substitution with safer ingredients. It also plans to take its private brand consumables products through a rigorous screening process for these chemicals.
The commitments made today will impact some 20 percent of the consumables sold at Walmart stores nationwide — the non-food products that you can pour, squeeze, dab or otherwise apply to your body or use in and around your home or car. This includes everyday products like shampoo, baby lotion, cosmetics, paint, spray cleaners and air fresheners.
Regardless of your views on the company, Walmart’s ability to transform how business does business is unprecedented. EDF has been working with Walmart since 2006 to protect people and the environment. Harnessing the massive scale of Walmart’s business to move hazardous chemicals out of the supply chain and off store shelves will have ripple effects across the entire industry.
Consumers today demand safer products; scientific research points to serious risks of chemical exposures to our health, including cancer, diabetes and infertility. Several years ago, EDF challenged Walmart to remove toxic chemicals from thousands of products on its shelves. Walmart’s announcement marks an important step toward doing just that.
Since 2006, Walmart suppliers have submitted chemical ingredients for consumables to The Wercs, which allows Walmart to see exactly what chemicals are in suppliers’ products. Using a screening tool called GreenWERCS, developed by a working group of industry, government and NGO representatives and co-chaired by EDF, Walmart will now be able to measure the progress it makes towards these commitments over time.
In our view, taking action on chemicals is a timely and practical response to growing public concern about toxic chemicals and public interest campaigns directed at many retailers and product manufacturers to remove hazardous ingredients from their products.
Over the past several years, major companies like SC Johnson, Johnson and Johnson, and most recently, Procter & Gamble — some of Walmart’s biggest suppliers — have all taken steps to phase out hazardous chemicals.
This commitment promises to make thousands of healthier and safer products available to the 80 percent of Americans that shop at Walmart. It is a first and important step that must be followed through with meaningful implementation. At EDF, we will be closely monitoring and verifying the reduction of hazardous chemicals and shift to safer ingredients, ensuring the promise for healthier products becomes a reality.
This will not be achieved overnight or by one single retailer. Industry and government are both responsible for continuously improving the safety of chemicals in the products we bring into our homes every day. But Walmart’s initiative marks a major step forward, and we hope to see other retailers follow suit.
In December 2011, I wrote an article called “Clearing Up Transparency.” At the time, transparency tools and product declarations were starting to gain traction in North America. LEED v4, formerly known as LEED 2012, just published the first draft of the updated rating system, and the built environment community was abuzz with acronyms: EPDs, PCRs and LCAs, to name a few.
Fast forward to now. Transparency is no longer a fleeting trend. All major green building rating systems globally and in North America have incorporated some form of life cycle-based product disclosure into their materials and resources sections. This includes LEED, BREEAM, ESTIDMA, GreenStar and Living Building Challenge.
There is no doubt that transparency is becoming a requirement for doing business. Some would argue it already is a requirement. Yet confusion still surrounds transparency tools and product declarations. Keep reading to explore four common myths and mysteries surrounding product declarations.
Before we dig in, let’s first focus on defining today’s most talked about transparency tools and product declarations.
• Life cycle assessment (LCA): LCA is a technique used to measure product or building environmental impacts, such as carbon footprint, throughout its life cycle. Typically, an LCA measures impacts from raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use and end of life. The LCA is the backbone of an environmental product declaration (EPD). LCAs are based on guidelines published by the International Organization of Standards. They are used globally.
• Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs): EPDs are a comprehensive disclosure of a product’s impacts throughout its life cycle. EPDs are also known as Type 3 Eco Labels. Like LCAs and PCRs, EPDs follow the International Organization of Standards guidelines. They are used globally.
• Product Category Rules (PCR): PCRs are like a recipe for producing an LCA and EPD. They establish the methodology that all product manufacturers in a category must follow when creating an EPD. PCRs follow the International Organization of Standards guidelines. They are used globally.
• Declare: The Declare label was created by the International Living Future Institute in support of the stringent materials requirements of the Living Building Challenge. Declare is a simple ingredients label that facilitates communication of transparent material information between suppliers and consumers. Declare is used globally.
• Health Product Declarations (HPDs): HPDs are a standard format for transparent disclosure of building product ingredients and associated hazards. HPDs were created by the Health Product Declaration Collaborative and are mainly used in North America.
Myths and mysteries
Now that we all have a common understanding of the types of transparency tools and product declarations commonly discussed, let’s focus on four common myths and mysteries.
1. All product declarations follow the same standard
It’s a common misconception that LCA, EPDs and HPDs are all created following globally recognized ISO standards and are based on PCRs. Only LCAs and EPDs are created following ISO guidelines, and therefore only LCAs and EPDs are based on PCRs.
HPDs, on the other hand, are created following an open standard format developed by a U.S based-nonprofit organization called the Healthy Product Declaration Collaborative.
As mentioned above, Declare was created by the International Living Future Institute and is based on publicly available criteria.
2. All product declarations address the same issues
The primary function of EPDs is to disclose information about the environmental impact of a product. This includes things such as carbon footprint, embodied energy and ozone depletion potential, among others. EPDs also can disclose product performance information such as indoor air quality test results and recycled content, limited ingredient information and facts about a company’s sustainability commitments.
Health and ingredient disclosure tools such as HPDs and Declare focus on building product content and ingredient disclosure. They also sometimes disclose hazards associated with content and ingredients.
With an HPD, manufacturers can choose to fully disclose all ingredients or only disclose a portion of ingredients. If one does not fully disclose all ingredients in the HPD, they must identify health hazards of remaining portions of product. Declare requires manufacturers to provide their full ingredients list, in addition to basic information about the product such as product source location and lifespan. The Living Futures Institute then assesses the ingredients to determine if any of those ingredients are on the Living Building Challenge red list, a list of 13 of the worst-in-class toxic chemicals and materials commonly found in building materials today. Manufacturers have to publicly disclose at least 99 percent of their ingredients and confirm any remaining ingredients less than 1 percent are not on the Living Building Challenge red list to participate in the program.
3. All product declarations define a product’s greenness
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I will say it again: Product declarations are one tool in the specification toolbox and they don’t tell you if products are green. Product declarations are disclosure tools that allow you to gain the information you need to make more informed, smarter purchasing decisions. They complement other environmental and sustainability performance labels and certifications, and encourage overall improvement in sustainability performance.
4. Product declarations are only marketing tools
This is possibly the most important myth to debunk. Sure, product declarations are a major component of any leading manufacturers marketing mix. However, this is not their most important use. Product declarations are most powerful when they are used as an internal management tool for measuring, monitoring and improving impact reduction. Companies with leading sustainability agendas adopt product declarations to help them understand where to find and reduce the greatest impacts in their product development, production and distribution processes. The information gathered during the product declaration creation process also informs future strategy and R&D decisions. Overall, product declarations are a footprint reduction, cost reduction and risk mitigation tool, just as much as they are a marketing tool.
Ensuring a project meets its goals means using the best products that align with project requirements. Because of the emphasis on transparency from green building rating systems, understanding the differences among the various product disclosure types will help building teams avoid confusion — and possibly something even worse — down the road.
Many people are aware of the harm traditional cleaners can have on the environment, they may not be as aware of the negative effects they can have on people. A few years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, a woman accidentally blew up her car when she lit a cigarette. The reason for the explosion? Fumes from the cleaning products she had in the trunk of her car ignited when she lit her cigarette. The explosion blew out her car windows and caused first and second degree burns.
Now, I’m not saying that if you used traditional cleaners that you’re going to blow yourself up, but it is just another example of how dangerous the chemicals in cleaning products can be. Besides the rare, (yet real), possibility of chemical cleaners exploding, they also cause harm to people in other ways. Some chemicals in cleaning products have been linked to things such as asthma, skin irritations, and some long term effects like brain damage and even cancer.
Being aware and knowledgeable of the materials you bring into your home is the first step towards protecting yourself and your family from any potential harm that may come from the chemicals in cleaning products. Be sure to read the labels of any cleaning product you bring into your home. Look for words like, “Warning” or “Caution”, they actually tell you a lot about the product, just by which words they use on the label. Here is a list of words you may see on a label, and what they mean.
“Caution”- This means that the product is slightly toxic.
“Warning”- This usually means that the product may be flammable and fairly toxic.
“Danger”- This means that the product may harm your skin if touched or your throat and stomach if ingested. It also means the product may be very flammable.
“Poison”- This means that the product is highly toxic, meaning it won’t take much to cause serious damage or even death.
So, be sure to read the label of any product you bring into your home carefully before you use it. Of course, to avoid having to worry about some of these dangerous products being in your home, you can always make the transition form traditional cleaners to green cleaners. Green cleaners are the better choice for the safety of your family and the environment.
This is an article from Destination Green, which tells the six major lessons learned by the 2012 winners of the Green Cleaning Awards for Schools and Universities. It is an interesting look at the growth of the Green Cleaning industry.
The following are the “lessons learned” from the winners of the 2012 Green Cleaning Awards for Schools and Universities. These tips may make an important impact on buildings, their occupants and the environment. And most are feasible, readily available and affordable.
1) Products. In 2012, every winner used an assortment of green chemicals, paper, equipment, tools and other products, but so did every entrant. Thus, it is clear that green products are widely available, meet performance requirements and are cost-effective.
Innovations in this area included efforts to reduce product consumption by using those that have higher performance and greater durability. The use of microfiber products is expanding (although concerns are increasing about quality because of the lack of any product standards in this category). And there is growth in the use of devices that ionize, ozonate, electrolyze and otherwise turn water into cleaning solutions.
2) Training. Every program provided training to custodians; after all, it is the law. But the winners went beyond the minimum OSHA requirements and those for new employees.
Innovations included training custodians on how they can reduce energy, water and waste while increasing recycling and composting. The winners went above and beyond by engaging and providing training to students, staff, visitors and other stakeholders on what they can do to create a cleaner, safer and more healthful environment.
3) Outreach. The winners worked to engage others through their schools, districts and campuses. Posters, newsletters, competitions, events, and social and traditional media helped make green cleaning and sustainability efforts clear, visible and frequent.
Innovations included garnering the “public” support of senior leaders in the school or university, as well as in the community, to give credibility and importance to the issue.
4) Teamwork. One of the more important lessons from the winners was teamwork that includes the entire institution and not just the custodial department. Schools and universities, large and small, urban and rural, are dealing with budget and staffing cuts. So, working constructively with teachers, students, staff, parents and others was a key to success.
Innovations varied from those actually engaging students in cleaning to higher-level engagement on green teams to help administer, manage and expand programs. Just imagine what could be achieved if schools elevated participation on the green team to the same level as being on the basketball or cheerleading squads.
5) Formula. Cleaning is a process, and the winners took the concept to the next level. They had a “formula” for everything, including the process of cleaning, selecting and reviewing products on an established basis, training of custodians, outreach to stakeholders, building the team and more. This year’s winners scored high in all areas.
Innovations in this area included clear and written processes and expectations, along with efficient execution that measured progress and identified opportunities for improvement.
6) Verification. Although it was common to find the use of independent third parties such as Green Seal, EcoLogo, EPA’s DfE Program and the Carpet & Rug Institute to verify product claims, the leaders did much more. For example, several of the winners used third parties such as Green Seal and ISSA to verify the performance of the entire cleaning program, including products, training and management systems.
Innovations in this area included the use of new technologies such as ATP meters to measure soil on surfaces. The use of such measurement tools objectively determined how clean surfaces really were so resources could be applied effectively in an effort to create and maintain buildings that are most conducive to learning.
While many people are embracing a greener way of life, there are some who still ask the question, “why?”. What are the benefits of going green? What are the risks of using traditional, chemical products? In this article from Facilitiesnet, titled “The Benefits of Green Cleaning”, you get to see not only the benefits of using green cleaning products but also the risks and hazards of using traditional cleaning products.
The Benefits of Green Cleaning
Green cleaning is catching on quickly. With the help of tools like LEED for Existing Buildings, which makes implementation easier by identifying the chemicals and other products to make green cleaning cost-effective, it is increasingly being recognized as a no-brainer strategy for facilities concentrating on environmental goals.
What makes green cleaning so important? One crucial factor is the potential harm that can be caused by traditional cleaning chemicals. Facility executives should understand the science behind cleaning, and how the chemicals in products can affect human health. That science should inform all decisions about cleaning programs. Properly selecting and using green cleaning products can help safeguard the health and safety of building occupants and the planet.
Science has made it clear that cleaning products can have an impact on building occupants. Some traditional products are known to contribute to health problems such as eye, skin and respiratory irritation as well as asthma and other allergic reactions, which can lead to occupant complaints and hurt attendance and productivity. Replacing these products with those that reduce the potential for harm has numerous advantages and is likely less costly than increasing the supply of fresh air or general ventilation rates.
Also important is the impact on cleaning personnel who have longer-term exposures at higher concentrations to chemical cleaning products. This exposure can sometimes lead to serious chronic illnesses such as cancer, and neurological or reproductive disorders.
The better facility executives understand how chemicals in cleaning products can cause harm, the better they will be able to choose cleaning strategies and products that will provide a healthy high performing building.
To minimize risks, it is important to understand how toxins can enter the body. These routes of exposure include ingestion, inhalation and dermal exposure.
People may ingest contaminants found in drinking water, foods and beverages, and from residues of cleaning products on food preparation surfaces, as well as from poorly cleaned hands.
Another route of exposure is inhalation. According to EPA, indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times, and occasionally more than 100 times, higher than outdoor levels. Levels of indoor air pollutants may be of particular concern because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.
Poor air quality may come from exterior sources like ozone, radon and automobile exhaust, but also from sources generated within buildings. For example, cleaners dispensed from aerosol cans, fragrances used in products that mask odors and solvents found in polishes all contain ingredients that can have a negative health impact when inhaled. As these chemicals pass from the lungs into the blood stream, they affect the nervous system and other major organs. This can result in symptoms including dizziness, respiratory distress, trigger asthma and more.
The final route of exposure is absorption through the skin. For example, 2-butoxyethanol, which is common in many traditional cleaners and degreasers (commonly called a “butyl cleaner”) , is readily absorbed through the skin and can be toxic to the reproductive system and other major body organs.
Everyone knows the positive affects green products and green cleaning can have on the environment and in the home, but can green cleaning actually help improve a business’ bottom line? In this article from Environmental Leader, you are shown three ways that green cleaning can actually help your business financially. I guess it’s just one more reason green cleaning is the wiser choice. Go Green, Save Green!
Three Ways Green Cleaning Can Improve Your Bottom Line
Being environmentally responsible is a hot-button issue in the cleaning industry these days. Many facilities managers and commercial cleaning companies feel pressure to make the switch, but aren’t sure how it will affect business or worry that it will end up increasing costs. In actuality, going green can be good for your bottom line in more ways than one.
Below are three examples of how green cleaning strategies can help the bottom line.
1) Worker Health and Safety
Most industrial cleaning products contain a brew of toxic chemicals that can easily compromise the well being of your employees. Workplace safety is ranked among the top job-related concerns for commercial cleaning workers and for good reason.
According to a review of workers’ compensation from the state of Washington, 6 out of every 100 professional cleaners must take time off from work each year to recuperate from on-the-job injuries. Eighty-eight percent of these injuries involve skin irritation or burns; eye irritation or burns; or chemical inhalation.
Many commonly used chemicals can result in blindness, burn the skin, negatively impact reproductive health, damage the kidneys or liver, and even cause cancer.
Making the switch to less toxic, environmentally sensitive cleaning products isn’t just good for the health of your employees (which should be reason enough); it can also reduce costs in the long run. Green cleaning products have the potential to reduce on-site injuries (and subsequent sick days), decrease workers’ compensation claims and ultimately lower your insurance costs.
2) Cleaning Products from Concentrate
There are green cleaning products for everything from windows to disinfectants to degreasers. And one of the key advantages of green products is that they are typically sold in concentration (meaning they must be diluted prior to use) with minimal packaging. This can save you money in a number of ways.
First, you will save money on raw materials and shipping costs. Essentially, more of the product can be shipped at a time with lower shipping fuel costs.
Second, concentrated cleaning products last much longer than their conventional counterparts. This ultimately reduces the frequency in which you will need to re-order supplies from your distributer, further minimizing shipping costs.
Finally, because concentrated cleaning goods are produced with minimal packaging, they take up a fraction of the storage space that conventional cleaners do. They are also easier to handle and carry.
3) Hazardous Chemicals: Protection and Disposal
Most conventional cleaning agents are highly toxic. As a result, you can’t simply throw these materials into the trash. You must instead follow strict regulations regarding the disposal of hazardous waste.
In addition to the hazardous chemicals and solutions themselves, these products also leave behind a secondary stream of waste that includes rags, absorbent pads, brushes, gloves and others. These secondary products add to the total volume of hazardous waste necessary for disposal. They also dictate a need for additional employee safety training and personal protective gear.
By making the switch to non-toxic cleaning products, you can ultimately reduce hazardous waste disposal costs, decrease money spent on employee safety training (or perhaps allocate it to another facet of training) and minimize the need for personal protection equipment.
EWG helps protect people from toxic chemicals in everything from our food and water, to the air we breathe and products we use regularly. In this article from Enviroblog, it explains how EWG grades cleaning products.
By David Andrews Ph.D., EWG Senior Scientist
It’s that time of year again, when students everywhere try to figure out how well they need to do on the final exam to get an A for the term. Or maybe they’re calculating what it will take just to pass the course after having bombed the midterm or failed to hand in a few assignments. I personally went through this ritual for many years, and while most often my grade was salvageable, there were times when my poor performance early in the semester ruled out getting an A.
Since the mid-September launch of the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about how we came up with the grades that individual products and their ingredients got. Many have asked how a product could score well – A or B – when it contains ingredients that got a C and in a few cases even a D.
Actually, the analogy of a final grade in school is a pretty good way to explain our product scores.
First, it’s important to understand that each product score is not just an average of the scores that its individual ingredients received. The final product score also takes into account how fully the manufacturer discloses the product’s ingredients, if the product has EWG-reviewed and approved green certifications, and the potential health hazards associated with the product formulation as a whole.
Every product and ingredient starts the process with a middle grade – a “gentleman’s C.” If our research indicates the product has a good safety profile, that pushes the score toward an A. If we come up with information that points to safety concerns, that weights the score the other way, toward an F. Just how far the score moves is determined by a complicated formula or algorithm that takes into account the details of the information we have. In the end, a product with just a few mediocre ingredients can still get a decent grade. But there’s a point of no return for products that have ingredients with strong evidence of health hazards. They’re bound to score poorly.
EWG created the Guide to Health Cleaning because, with some exceptions, manufacturers (and the government) largely leave consumers in the dark about what’s in their cleaning products. To fill that gap, EWG scoured the landscape for all the publicly available information we could find, incomplete and limited though it sometimes is, and developed a comprehensive scoring methodology that uses that information to evaluate and rank the products in a systematic, unbiased way. Although the system relies on some complicated math, the basics involve just a few simple steps:
Collect all the ingredient information we can find about the product, including what’s listed on the label, on the manufacturer’s website and on safety data sheets that must accompany products when they are made.
Score each of the ingredients this way:
If there’s little or no information available about an ingredient’s hazard potential, it gets a C.
If the available information indicates a health hazard, that moves the score toward an F; if the information indicates there’s no safety hazard, the score moves toward an A.
Just how far the score moves depends on the findings of available studies, which EWG reviews, and the comprehensiveness of those studies.
Sometimes, the available information doesn’t identify a specific ingredient in a product, only that it’s one of a class of chemicals. In that case, the score assumes that the ingredient is the most hazardous chemical in that class.
Calculate a score for the product formulation as a whole based on just the ingredients.
Combine the formulation score with an ingredient disclosure score and factor in product-specific attributes, such as if the product is caustic or has been approved by a rigorous, EWG-reviewed green certification program.
If you want all the details, please read the “About this report: Methodology” section of the Guide. You can get there by clicking the ‘i info’ button on the top of the database pages or here.
The most important thing to understand is why many ingredients get a C. That’s going to be the final grade whenever there’s not enough information available to make a judgment or when there’s conflicting evidence on whether a chemical poses a health hazard. Most often it’s the lack of safety data that makes an ingredient score a C. It’s possible that some companies using these ingredients have private testing information to show there’s no safety issue, but EWG can’t see data that hasn’t been made public and we’re not about to trust manufacturers without the data. The lack of public information on the safety of chemicals in everyday products is a major failing of the nation’s outdated chemical policy.
EWG’s goal is to provide consumers with safer products and the tools to make informed purchasing decisions about their cleaning products. Without complete ingredient disclosure, that task is difficult.
We appreciate all your comments and suggestions as we continue to look for ways to improve this EWG’s Guide to Health Cleaning and to push for greater disclosure and safer products.
PortionPac is a green cleaning product often used by Clean Conscience, which has recently been recognized by Green Seal at the ISSA Convention in Chicago. Here is a little article from PR Newswire about that recognition, and a little background on PortionPac.
“Because there are so many manufacturers that are vying for the new GS-53 product certification right now, we are proud to be the first to market,” said PortionPac president Burt Klein . “Receiving this recognition at the industry’s annual tradeshow is very rewarding.”
The Federal Trade Commission’s new Green Guides, released earlier this month, codify the importance of manufacturers using independent, scientific certifications in sustainability claims instead of promoting products with unsubstantiated marketing claims.
PortionPac, founded in 1964, is the leading provider of pre-measured, maximum concentrate detergents. The PortionPac system reduces the resources used throughout a product’s lifecycle of production, storage, distribution and disposal. The system minimizes environmental impact and eliminates the unsafe and ineffective habits of traditional cleaning procedures. PortionPac has been named a 2010 Top Small Company Workplace by Winning Workplaces and Inc. magazine PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1qTEg)