Schools Face Stricter Cleaning Guidelines

Grassroots Environmental Education, a N.Y. nonprofit, announced the revised ChildSafe Guidelines for cleaning products used in schools and day-care centers, along with a list of products that meet the new guidelines, which contain the most stringent requirements of any published standard.

The ChildSafe Guidelines, which were originally developed in 2006 based on standards published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior, were the first to acknowledge the unique vulnerability of children to environmental toxins, and to set threshold limits for certain chemicals commonly found in commercial cleaning products.

Recent scientific evidence that chronic, low-level exposures to petrochemicals commonly found in institutional cleaning products are a significant health hazard for children has fueled increased demand for safer products. Those that meet the new guidelines are among the safest ever produced, says Grassroots.

Most schools and child care facilities are cleaned every day, leaving behind fresh residues of cleaning chemicals on surfaces with which children come into direct contact. Researchers have found that early exposures to environmental toxins appear more likely to produce chronic disease than similar exposures encountered later in life. This is of particular concern for pregnant women working in schools since the developing fetus is particularly at risk from maternal exposures to certain chemicals.

Public Hand Washing On The Rise

A study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute found that 85 percent of adults washed their hands in public restrooms, compared with 77 percent in 2007. The 85 percent total was actually the highest observed since these studies began in 1996.

According to a separate telephone survey, 96 percent of adults say they always wash their hands in public restrooms, a percentage that has remained relatively constant over the years.

The same survey found that 77 percent of men washed their hands publicly in 2010, compared to 66 percent in 2007. The rate of women washing their hands in public restrooms also improved from 88 percent in 2007 to 93 percent in 2010.

That said, those who say they always clean their hands before handling or eating food is staying about the same: 77 percent in 2010, compared to 78 percent in 2007.

Among women, 83 percent say they clean their hands before touching their food, compared to just 71 percent of men. And only 39 percent of Americans say they always wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.

Superbug Poses Potential Threat to U.S.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that three cases of infection by a new drug-resistant microbe from India have been reported in the United States.

NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1) is the gene (the DNA code) found in some types of bacteria. This gene makes the bacteria produce an enzyme called a carbapenemase, which makes virtually all antibiotics ineffective. To date, there are no current antibiotics or research of new drugs that might combat NDM-1.

According to reports, the first case was identified in December 2009 in a patient hospitalized in New Delhi, and has since been detected in bacteria in India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Japan.

A bacterium carrying the NDM-1 gene is reportedly the most powerful superbug to date and it is easily transferred from person-to-person.

The only way to currently combat the spread of NDM-1 is through surveillance, prompt identification and isolation of infected patients, disinfecting hospital equipment and thorough hand-hygiene procedures in hospitals.