Children, teachers, and school staff in Illinois will soon breathe a little easier during the school day. With a 52-5 vote in the Senate, Illinois became only the second state to enact legislation requiring green cleaning in schools.

"Illinois is becoming a national leader in providing healthy learning environments for our children," said Mark Bishop, deputy director of the Healthy Schools Campaign. "This simple step goes miles in protecting the health of everyone in the school building. It's an important milestone for Illinois, and it's simply the right thing to do."

The act will require all elementary and secondary schools in Illinois to purchase environmentally sensitive cleaning supplies, which are now cost-comparable and equally effective to conventional cleaning products.

Green cleaning products reduce children's exposure to irritants and toxic chemicals while protecting the health of custodial staff who work closely with the supplies.

"I've seen the negative health effects of traditional cleaning chemicals first-hand, and I can tell you there's a better way," said Bill Thompson, director of facilities at Lockport Township High School. Thompson began implementing a green cleaning program three years ago and now sees benefits in student attendance as well as cost savings for his school. "Green cleaning is the right thing to do, not only for children but for the custodial staff who work with the chemicals."

The bill authorizes the Green Government Coordinating Council to determine specific standards for green products within six months. Schools will develop plans for meeting the standards within three months of the standards' development, but may continue using their current stock of cleaning supplies until it is depleted.

The Green Clean Schools Act was introduced in the House by Rep. Karen May and in the Senate by State Sen. Iris Martinez. It has a broad base of support from a coalition of allies that includes the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; American Academy of Pediatrics IL Chapter; American Lung Association of Chicago and Illinois; Chicago Teachers Union; Citizen Action of Illinois; Cloud 9 & Company; Environment Illinois; Environmental Law and Policy Center; Healthy Schools Campaign; Illinois Association of School Nurses; Illinois Education Association; Illinois Environmental Council; Illinois Public Health Association; ISSA, Kranz, Inc.; LaGrange Highland School District 106; Lt. Governor's Office; Phoenix Supply Company; Pike Systems; Pollution Prevention Resource Center; PortionPac Chemical Corporation; SEIU; Seven Generations Ahead; Sierra Club; Southern Illinois Public Cooperative; United Supply Service, Inc.; U.S. Green Building Council; and Voices for Illinois Children.