Empty chairs in an empty classroom

As schools consider COVID-19 disinfection regimens that can unintentionally expose students and staff to health risks from hazardous chemicals, Healthy Green Schools & Colleges is released its "Guidelines for Safer COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection," which spell out effective and responsible cleaning practices for health and safety during the pandemic.

The guidelines were developed by global nonprofit eco-certifier Green Seal and pioneering advocacy nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign in partnership with recognized leaders in green cleaning and facilities management at schools and universities across the United States. They are based on the latest scientific understanding of the COVID-19 virus and build on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

Health experts caution that repeated or extended exposures to disinfectant chemicals can lead to significant health effects, especially for vulnerable populations including children. Some common disinfectant ingredients, such as quaternary ammonium compounds, are linked to asthma and reproductive toxicity. 

Excessive chemical exposure poses an especially grave risk for the one in 13 Americans with asthma – a group the CDC has identified as high-risk for COVID-19. Choosing safer proven-effective products, especially those that do not contain asthmagens or respiratory irritants, is critical for protecting high-risk groups. The guidelines identify the eight safest active ingredients to look for when choosing from EPA’s list of approved COVID-19 disinfectants. 

The Guidelines caution against using application tools such as foggers that are being marketed for controlling COVID-19, but which unnecessarily increase hazardous chemical exposure while providing no added protection against the pathogen. They clarify when and how to safely use technologies such as electrostatic sprayers and UV-C light.  

With actionable best practices and clear infographics, the guidelines explain how to:

1. Create an effective cleaning and disinfecting plan. 

2. Ensure that cleaning personnel are properly trained. 

3. Maintain sustainability and healthy indoor air. 

4. Communicate the cleaning and disinfecting plan. 

5. Provide safer working conditions. 

“Blanketing a building in hazardous chemicals won’t necessarily prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it can create significant health risks for those inside, including – ironically – serious respiratory disease” says Green Seal CEO Doug Gatlin. “After physical distancing and mask-wearing, the best tool to combat COVID-19 is accurate information. These Guidelines for safe and effective cleaning and disinfection are a handbook for schools that are committed to comprehensively protecting the health of students and staff during the pandemic.”

"Schools face many challenges in providing a healthy and safe environment for students as staff as they operate in a COVID-19 environment," says Rochelle Davis, president and CEO of Healthy Schools Campaign. "Concerns over COVID-19 may cause some schools to over disinfect, potentially creating other health problems, wasting valuable resources or creating a false sense of security. These guidelines offer evidence-based recommendations on an effective and responsible program for maintaining a health clean environment for students and staff."