Pro-Environmental Cleaning for Your Building

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Managers of buildings and other facilities where workers perform know that diseases can rapidly spread in an unclean environment. There are in place certain industry standards that require such things as daily cleaning of lunchrooms to guard against and prevent food contamination, and cleaning and sanitizing bathroom facilities to prevent the spread of E. coli and other pathogens.

This would extend to the desks and meeting rooms where groups of people in various stages of health would gather, potentially spreading cold and flu germs in any season. While the term "sick building syndrome" is still making its way into the lexicon, the compromises to a worker's health from such a building are becoming well known.

Knowledgeable managers are beginning to consider and utilize products such as purifiers for water and air, carpeting and furniture that don't emit toxic fumes, and low and no VOC paint. One step in the right direction is the use of cleaning products that are themselves environmentally friendly and not toxic. Some specifics about these products are provided for your information.

What To Avoid:

1. Volatile Organic Compounds - In learning what to avoid, you will come across the term "Volatile Organic Compounds", conveniently abbreviated as VOCs. In layman's terms, this would the fumes released by certain solids and liquids, which according to the EPA are as much as ten times the density inside a building as outside. It will certainly be no surprise that the a lack of ventilation in enclosed buildings is a prime factor in the concentration of these VOCs.

These compounds are released not only by common cleaning supplies, but by such surprising additions as dry cleaned clothing and air fresheners. Paint and paint remover and plywood and pressed board used on and in walls emit their own mix of VOCs and can contribute to sick building syndrome.

Once one is aware of the emission of Volatile Organic Compounds in a work environment, further exploration reveals the harmful side effects of exposure. These effects can be short or long-term and include everything from the simple, such as dizziness, headaches, eye irritation, flu-like symptoms and asthma attacks, to cancer as the most detrimental.

While you may be wondering your current exposure level, consider in the equation if your office uses kitchen and bathroom cleaners, glass cleaner, a multi-purpose cleaner, floor cleaners, and spot treatment for fabrics and carpeting. If your answer is yes and these products are not a non-toxic product, then you too are experiencing exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds.

While everyone would benefit from less exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds, there are certain segments of the population who are particularly sensitive. These people would include the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, and those who suffer from some sort of immune system compromise.

Perhaps your cleaning crew comes in after hours and therefore you think you are not exposed to these VOCs. After all, you aren't in the immediate area, right? This is, unfortunately, not accurate as these fumes can and do stay in the air for hours after their use.

Even sitting in a closet, the bottles emit gasses. Unless your building has been upgraded recently to include a purification and ventilation system that continuously cleans the air, your exposure is not mitigated.

2. Solvents - Contributing to the Volatile Organic Compounds in the air are the chemicals found in solvents. Some of these are noted to have carcinogenic and toxic properties. A surprising number are in common usage, such as Ethylene Glycol Ethers (EGEs), alcohols, Propylene Glycol Ethers (PGEs), and ethers.

What To Look For:

1. Neutral pH - The determination of what exactly is a neutral pH can be easily understood. Neutral has been given a value of 7.0 and is based on how the product reacts with the environment once it enters the water system, the effect on the surface being cleaned, and the outcome of usage on the skin. Acids, such as battery acid, has a value under 7.0, while the opposite - alkali - has a value of over 7.0 and would include such items as bleach. The 7.0 pH neutral is not reactive to surfaces.

The great thing about using a neutral pH product is that the surfaces that need the most cleaning, such as desks, conference tables, carpets and countertops, all avoid harmful residue that is so common with other cleaning products. Marble, one of the surfaces that require experience and the right product to clean, are never damaged by a neutral pH cleaner. Even more important, exposed skin is unharmed by such chemical free cleaners.

2. Biodegradable - All of the chemicals we wash down the drain get put into the water supply unchanged. This affects many levels of plant and animal life and ultimately must be removed from the water prior to consumption. How much better is it to use products that biodegrade within the shortest time as those meeting the highest standards of the EPA do?

The most used cleaning products are also the ones that are so deleterious to the environment. Changing to products that biodegrade in under 28 days with no aquatic toxicity is the responsible, eco-friendly choice to make.

3. Plant-Based - The use of plants for medicinal and health purposes is a long-established fact. Add the cleansing properties and you have a complete arsenal, all non-toxic and organic. No synthetic chemical compound offers the non-toxic benefits of the plant-based products. Fortunately, the plant-based compounds clean as well as or better than their harmful counterparts, including less to no Volatile Organic Compounds in the work environment.

The overall management of a building or facility requires many decisions, both easy and complex. Making the move to eliminate toxic chemical cleaners falls into the "easy" category. Simple to do, using natural multipurpose cleaning products paves the way for a cleaner environment and healthier workers. Choosing to use eco friendly cleaning products will put any manager at the forefront of those who care about the wellbeing of workers and the long-term health of the planet.

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