By Eric Roudi
As the Great Recession loosens its grip on the economy, more and more Americans will be headed back to work. With this return to the office, American workers can expect more spending money, more stress…and more exposure to poisonous chemicals and toxins.
Recent government reports and non-profit studies have revealed that exposure to chemicals and toxins found in common cleaning products can cause reproductive problems, lung issues, and multiple forms of cancer. In fact, a recent EPA study concluded that toxic chemicals in common cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air. Additionally, in 2013, the American Association of Poison Control Centers listed cleaning substances as one of the top three most common reasons for exposure to poison in adults.
The following tips may help to minimize dangerous cleaning products and create healthier work environments, thus ensuring all Americans have an opportunity to execute healthy and green strategies at work.
10 Tips for a Greener, Cleaner Workplace
- Quick-Fix Means Danger – Avoid air fresheners and fabric protection sprays as they contain chemicals linked to endocrine system issues, like reproductive problems.
- Treating Carpet is a No-No – Stay away from carpet floors if you are opening a new facility. However, if you do have carpet, avoid carpet cleaners and stain resistant treatments that expose your office to chemicals. Rely on a steam-cleaner instead.
- Beware of Old Furniture – In recent years, laws have been created to rid the furniture market of PBDE’s—fire retardants that break down into dangerous metabolites linked to cancer. Old furniture may be putting your office at risk.
- Replace Cleaners with Clever DIY Tricks – For DIY projects, there are many standard household items that can be used to clean surfaces and handle tough odors. These include, but are not limited to, lemon, cooking oil, vinegar, and baking soda.
- Carefully Inspect Cleaning Product Labels – Even though only 7% of cleaning products adequately disclose their list of ingredients, some do reveal dangerous chemicals on the bottle. Make sure to avoid cleaning products that contain dangerous chemicals like phthalates, formaldehyde, and “chemical surfactants.”
- Make Air Quality a High Priority – A recent EPA study concluded that toxic chemicals in cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air. Additionally, consistent exposure to other dangerous elements (like asbestos) has been linked to cancer and mesothelioma. Make sure your internal and/or external cleaning team has the resources to check HVAC/ventilation systems and control air quality.
- Go Green with LEED Certified Cleaners – It’s important to make sure that the cleaning crew who maintains your building is LEED certified. The US Green Building Council ensures LEED certified facility management teams are up to speed on best practices regarding green cleaning. Help the environment while keeping your staff healthy.
- Don’t Skimp on Cleaning Technology – Commercial cleaning experts are investing considerable time, money and resources to improve health and quality. Technological advancements, like sprayer nozzles that reduce chemical releases, are making a big difference. Invest in modernized cleaning equipment to take advantage.
- Establish a Cleaning Policy with Employees – All of the changes you make as an employer will be compromised if your staff neglects to follow suit. Educate your employees on the damaging effects of cleaning products and create a policy that restricts and/or bans their use.
- Hire a Proven Cleaning Company that Values Health and Open Relationships – Trust a commercial cleaning and facility maintenance company who uses only safe, environmentally sound products and understands green cleaning techniques. Make sure they work with you to understand the your specific needs.
Roudi is founder of OpenWorks, a national commercial cleaning franchise that offers integrated facility services through local affiliates. In 30+ years, the company has grown to 330 franchise locations in five states from Illinois to California.