Whenever we walk into a recently-cleaned school classroom or bathroom, the harsh odor of industrial-strength cleaning products hits like a wave. The smell of “clean” can make us cough.
A little cough is the least of our worries. Asthma rates are on the rise – 1 in 6 kids in California develop asthma during childhood. Teachers also suffer significantly higher rates of this life-threatening condition.
Increasing evidence links asthma to exposure to common cleaning products. Cleaning products have also been found to trigger asthma attacks.
Chemicals found in school and household cleaners are associated with even more disturbing health problems, including cancer and reproductive toxicity.
The Clean and Healthy Schools Act (AB 821), introduced in the California state legislature by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) and sponsored by EWG and other school and health advocates, would set schools on a new path to health. The bill would require schools across California to use certified green cleaning products.
Similar bills have passed in New York, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland. California, so often a leader on children’s health issues, is falling behind.
Why the foot-dragging? We can always blame the budget. California’s economic crisis has hijacked the legislature, stalling all bills that cost the state any money.
But wait — the Brownley bill would allow school administrators to work within their budgets: if green cleaners are too expensive, then they can continue using non-green products.
School administrators shouldn’t have to make a tough choice: these days, green cleaning products are just as effective as old-fashioned products, and they cost no more. In many cases, California school districts that have voluntarily switched to green cleaners have actually saved money.
Problem is, state law classifies our green cleaning bill as a mandate and a new expense. This means that if school districts ask, the state has to pay the entire cost of green cleaning, on top of the funds the state already provides to schools each year.
It’s a Catch-22 – and it’s hurting schoolchildren all over California.