- Green Cleaning Initiatives That Battle Infection Control
The Greening of Disinfectants in Infection Prevention Programs
When it comes to purchasing green products and adopting environmentally friendly procedures, BSCs have plenty of options and resources. First and foremost, consultants recommend adhering to protocols like Green Seal’s Disinfection Guidelines, or the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Safety First Pilot Credit for Cleaning and Disinfecting.
When disinfecting against SARS-CoV-2, LEED recommends using products that are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) List N: Disinfectants for COVID-19 and are formulated with the active ingredients recommended by EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program. These products are considered safer and reduce the impacts on the environment compared to conventional disinfectants.
As of May 2020, the DfE active ingredient list includes hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, L-lactic acid, ethanol, isopropanol, peroxyacetic acid, sodium bisulfate and chitosan.
When reviewing products on this list, Solomon cautions BSCs to pay attention to the details. She points out that disinfectants may have two active ingredients, and both need to be on the list.
“A chemical may have citric acid and a quaternary ammonia compound, for example, which means it would not be kept on the EPA list,” she says. “As we all know, the label is the law. It’s important that you read the label and make sure that all of the active ingredients are listed under EPA’s DfE program.”
Solomon also recommends conducting an assessment of the customer’s facility to identify areas at high risk for transfer of infection before selecting disinfectants appropriate for those concerns. Then, when preparing concentrated disinfectants, custodians should take extra care to follow directions and use the proper dilution ratios.
“One thing people never talk about is checking their dilution devices to see if they’re working properly,” says Ashkin. “We can use a commercially available test strip to test the dilution ratio of the disinfectant.”
Application methods are equally important: Custodians should apply enough chemical so that the surface remains saturated for the entire dwell time. As Ashkin notes, failure to adhere to dwell times is a violation of federal law, puts customers at risk and opens the door for possible liability for BSCs.
A Measured Approach
LEED’s Green Cleaning Guidance for Safety First Pilot Credit also offers guidance for objectively measuring cleaning performance in an effort to move beyond cleaning for appearances to cleaning for health.
“For larger businesses and those with vulnerable populations, this is a process BSCs should consider implementing,” says Ashkin. “The program can be integrated into daily routine cleaning, and we have found a way to make it cost effective.”
Testing devices, like adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters, can be used not only to test performance but to eliminate redundant cleaning.
“Supervisors can test a few surfaces and determine that a room is already clean,” says Ashkin. “The value of doing this is to help us focus resources on the spaces that are most important to protecting occupant health.”
LEED is also working to identify other cleaning processes that can be measured objectively. For example, turbidity meters can be used in mop buckets to determine when to dump and replenish water. Similarly, meters that measure the coefficient of friction on floors can help BSCs audit their floor cleaning procedures.
While much attention is given to chemicals, BSCs should not overlook other cleaning supplies when responding to customers’ requests for safer, greener cleaning practices. Ergonomically designed tools and equipment that reduce the chance of worker injuries support this goal, as does the use of sustainable materials.
“Look at the products you’re purchasing — mops, sanitary paper products, hand towels, can liners — to see if you’re using sustainable, reusable materials,” says Solomon. “Not only how they’re made, but are they recyclable.”
With the early uncertainty surrounding the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cleaning industry saw an uptick in disposable items. This included single-use cloths and microfiber mop heads, just to name a few.
“These disposable items reduced cross-contamination, but now you have more stuff going into the landfill,” says Solomon. "You have to consider the lifespan of that supply from cradle to grave and do a cost-benefit analysis.”
Despite the tradeoffs, the benefits of cleaning facilities in a safe, sustainable manner are multifold — particularly during these trying times.
“My first focus is always the occupational exposure and unintended consequences of using irritating and caustic chemicals,” notes Solomon. “The benefit of green cleaning is protecting the occupants, as well as the environmental services team that is applying these chemicals eight hours a day. Then there is the reduction of the impacts to the environment.”
Tied to these outcomes are the potential savings of reduced absenteeism, workers compensation claims and recycling costs — plus the reward of a favorable reputation.
“With a global pandemic driven by a respiratory virus, green cleaning is the solution for the current environment,” says Clevenger. “It instills trust with facility managers and building tenants while creating the healthiest indoor space.”
Kassandra Kania is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina and is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.
Green Cleaning Initiatives That Battle Infection Control