Elementary and high school facilities across the United States pose health risks to students and staff due to the lack of a standardized approach to assessing the effectiveness of their cleaning regimen. A vast majority of facilities judge cleaning by  sight, smell and even touch. But this approach is woefully inadequate in this age of MRSA, norovirus and other infectious agents that cannot be detected by the senses alone.

Realizing this serious deficiency, ISSA and the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) entered into a joint venture,  commissioning an independent body of scientists led by Dr. Richard Shaughnessy, University of Oklahoma – Tulsa, and Dr. Gene Cole, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, to perform research intended to provide three deliverables.

The first goal was to identify an objective, quantitative method of measuring cleanliness. After thoroughly reviewing various devices, the researchers concluded that ATP (adenosine triphosphate) meters are a valid, relatively simple, rapid and affordable measure of the level of cleanliness of critical interior surfaces in schools. Just as important, these devices were found to be reliable and consistent in their measurements across geographic and climatic zones.

Secondly, ISSA and CIRI tasked the researchers with producing reasonable range values for measuring levels of cleanliness in schools across three different ATP meters, representing a standardized and quantitative approach to measuring clean. With this step, “cleanliness” was defined based on ATP-RLU (relative light units) values.

Now, ISSA and CIRI will use this information to establish a practical standard and protocol that will empower schools to validate their cleaning regimen, as well as help them more efficiently allocate their limited resources for cleaning and maintenance. This protocol — the Clean Standard: K-12 — is currently under development, but is expected to be finalized by June 2013.

Purpose of school cleaning standards

The Clean Standard: K-12 establishes a framework for assessing the cleanliness of a school’s interior high-touch surfaces. The primary methods used for this assessment is a site survey and quantitative measurements based on ATP meters to determine what is biologically soiled. The assessment is designed to provide information showing the initial extent of contamination and the level of biological contaminant removal when cleaned. It should be used for the ultimate purpose of improving the quality of the indoor environment for the benefit of both students and staff.

The standard provides a systematic approach based on multiple elements that are used to measure and monitor the level of cleanliness at K-12 schools related to residual surface contamination of biological origin.
Specifically, the Clean Standard includes the following elements:

A site survey or building audit;
• Evaluation of the presence of visual dust and soils;
• Pre-cleaning and post-cleaning evaluations and measurements based on ATP measurements; and
• Periodic measurement of bio-contamination or bio-soil loads using ATP.

These elements are intended to be used in a systematic process to determine the background condition and pre-existing soiling loads in any school, as well as the level of cleanliness achieved after cleaning. They also provide periodic measurement of cleanliness at the school facility.

Training will be a key component in implementing the Clean Standard at any school to ensure that ATP measurements are conducted in a correct and consistent manner to ensure accuracy of the results.

The collective elements of the Clean Standard: K-12 will make it possible to assess the effectiveness of any commercial cleaning regimen, equipment, products and procedures. As such, the standard empowers schools to select a cleaning regimen that is the most effective and economical.

Bill Balek is the director of environmental services and legislative affairs for ISSA, Lincolnwood, Ill. More information on the Clean Standard: K-12 can be found at www.issa.com.