Senate Bill on Safe Cleaning Products in Schools Gains Support

A non-governmental toxic watchdog welcomed the filing of a Senate bill that seeks to enforce the use of safe cleaning products in schools.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group promoting chemical safety, lauded Senate Bill 2962 authored by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago requiring schools to use certified environmentally-preferable cleaning products for the safety of the school community.

The proposed “Safe Cleaning Products in Schools Act” will prohibit the purchase or use of air fresheners in school premises, including para-dichlorobenzene, a suspected carcinogen, that is often used as toilet deodorizer.

As defined in the bill, cleaning products will include items routinely used for cleaning chores such as hand soaps, general purpose cleaners, bathroom cleaners, glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, floor care items and antimicrobial pesticides.

“We welcome this legislative measure that aims to safeguard the health of students, teachers, janitors, gardeners and other school personnel from harmful chemicals in common cleaning products,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Since substitutes to toxic cleaning products are now widely available, we hope the bill will categorically disallow the use of materials laced with chemicals of concern and duly promote safer chemical as well as non-chemical alternatives,” she suggested.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Santiago called attention to dangerous ingredients present in typical household cleaning products such as caustics or solvents, which when used, stored or disposed of improperly are deemed health hazards.

Caustic chemicals, Santiago warned, can cause burns and severe damage to the skin and eyes, while the inhalation or accidental ingestion of solvents can be harmful or even fatal.

Long-term exposure to some solvents may cause liver and kidney problems, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and cancer, she emphasized.

The veteran legislator also cited a study conducted by the University of Washington in US which showed that many scented cleaning products contain mystery chemicals not listed on their labels that are toxic to health.

Researchers found that 25 of the most frequently used scented products contained an average of 17 hazardous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which may have short-term and long-term adverse health effects.

“Children are more sensitive (to chemical exposure) because they are still developing their basic body systems. The brain, internal organs, respiratory, and immune systems are not fully developed until adolescence,” observed Santiago.

Senate Bill 2962, if approved, will require the Departments of Education, Environment and Natural Resources and Health, to jointly create and update a “school environmental health website.”

The website will contain information regarding:

(1) Materials and practices in common use in school operations and construction that may compromise indoor air quality or negatively impact human health;

(2) Potential health problems associated with these materials, with specific reference to children’s vulnerability;

(3) Integrated pest management and alternatives to chemical pest control;

(4) Methods to reduce or eliminate exposure to potentially hazardous substances in schools.

(5) Environmentally preferable cleaning products certified by an independent third party including a list of these products and procedures for using them.

“The website should facilitate public access to critical information to guide administrators and other stakeholders in making the school environment safe from toxic chemicals ,” Lucero added.


Link to Senate Bill 2962: