Cheerful smiling child at the blackboard

With the growing pressures on schools to educate and protect students on limited resources, the issues of the environment and good health sometimes fall through the cracks, according to But the chemicals found in some cleaning products can cause health issues for students and teachers alike — including headaches and eye, nose and throat irritation.

For instance, products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can trigger asthma, upper respiratory irritation, fatigue, nasal congestion, nausea and dizziness.

This poor indoor air quality has been shown to hamper students’ performance. Unfortunately, 43 percent of schools have unsatisfactory indoor environmental conditions and 20 percent have unsatisfactory air quality.

Green cleaning products and practices can help avoid some of these health effects.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, green products can protect the health of students, teachers and custodial staff who use the chemicals frequently. They can also contribute to fewer student and faculty absences, reduce the cost of cleaning supplies and help increase the lifespan of facilities.

Basic steps the EPA suggests include:
• Read and follow cleaning product labels, and ensure the products are inaccessible to students.
• Use products that have:
 – Neutral pH levels and no known carcinogens
 – Low or no fragrance
 – Low or no volatile organic compounds
 – Energy and water savings benefits
 – Biodegradability and less packaging

Naturally, the clean is just as important as the green in a school environment. According to the Alliance for Consumer Education:
• Children can touch and retouch over 300 surfaces in just 30 minutes.
• Germs that cause colds and flu can survive on common classroom surfaces for up to 72 hours.
• Nearly 22 million school days are lost each year due to the common cold.

Custodians can help keep germs at bay by wiping down high-touch surfaces — including classroom surfaces, doorknobs, restroom fixtures, light switches and shared with disinfecting wipes at least once a day.