Monday, April 26th, was National Healthy Schools Day and the first day of School Building Week. This is a week devoted to engaging students, parents, local officials and policymakers on creating effective learning opportunities and revitalizing our children's educational facilities, which includes promoting a healthy school environment.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education found 1 in 5 public schools has poor indoor air quality and insufficient ventilation. This toxic environment can produce a number of health problems affecting students, teachers and school staff alike.
Research has found some commonly used industrial school cleaners contain as many as 450 contaminants. Some of the chemicals used in these cleaners have been linked to asthma, hormone disruption and cancer. Studies have also suggested a direct connection between asthma related absenteeism and lower academic performance due to poor indoor air quality.
Children can be exposed to toxic chemical cleaners three ways: through inhalation (breathing in the fumes), skin contact (from the chemical residue left on surfaces), and ingestion (children putting their hands in their mouth).
As we begin to have a greater understanding of the myriad of health implications caused by chemicals used in industrial cleaners, many schools are initiating new policies aimed at replacing conventional products with safer, non-toxic "green" alternatives and finding that they are often cost neutral.
Eight states - Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri Nevada and New York - have already passed legislation designed to encourage or require the use of green cleaning products in their schools.
Many other states, including California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont have pending legislation aimed at adopting the use of green school cleaners.
Earlier this year, I blogged about ways parents can encourage schools to improve their indoor air quality by switching to safer, non-toxic school cleaners and pesticides. This is a simple--often economically advantageous--maintenance change that will reduce the amount of toxic chemicals polluting classroom air that can trigger respiratory illnesses.
In keeping with the spirit of National Healthy Schools Day, parents should continue to advocate for the use of safe, non-toxic cleaning products and appeal to their elected officials to enact laws that will protect our children's health by improving the indoor air quality of our neighborhood schools.
Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com. For more information go to www.dienviro.com