The movement for green building technology has certainly gained a hold here in the U.S. Architects and builders strive for the coveted LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
One would think that Green Cleaning techniques for such buildings, indeed all of our buildings, would warrant the same amount of attention and certification.
Alas, it is not so.
What is the Standard Definition of Green Cleaning?
At the current time, no standard definition of the terms “green cleaner” or “green cleaning” exists.
Independent organizations sometimes have their set of criteria, and some certify products that meet these standards.
For example, since 1989, Green Seal, Inc. has worked with local, state, and federal government agencies to identify and promote environmentally friendly products for a green marketplace.
Green Seal Inc. conducts assessments of green cleaning products leading to the GS-37 certification.
What is Green Seal-37?
Products that are eligible to earn the Green Seal-37 (or GS-37) certification include cleaning products for industrial and institutional use.
To obtain the certification, cleaning products may not contain chemicals that:
- Damage skin or eyes,
- Include known cancer-causing materials,
- Cause mutations,
- Are toxic to reproductive health,
- Cause asthma, or;
- Cause skin sensitivity.
Surely, the EPA has something to say about green cleaners, right?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) definitely has a role to play with respect to chemical disinfectants.
EPA classifies such chemicals as anti-microbial pesticides which must register with the Agency as required by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
EPA has more than 5,000 products registered in this category. Companies sell these products in the US, generally for use in hospitals and healthcare buildings.
Please note: One key difference between GS-37’s certification and EPA’s registration criteria is that EPA does not recognize asthma as a health effect for such products.
Do we have Green Cleaning Standards for General Workplace Environments?
The U. S. Department of Labor provides guidance to employers (other than hospitals or heath care agencies) about the use of less hazardous anti-microbial cleaners:
Historically, these guidelines have focused on substituting safer chemicals for dangerous ones.
However, our ideas of green cleaners may change as new non-chemical technologies come on the market:
- Ultraviolet light,
- Materials with antimicrobial properties, such as copper, microfiber cloths.
Even water can have anti-microbial properties after it has been electrolyzed or ozonated.
We don’t find these technologies in full use currently because the EPA does not register them.
If your business’ clients have protocols calling for EPA-registered cleaners, you cannot use the new technologies.
What Can We Do to Get Better Standards?
We need more systematic studies on companies that use the new techniques to improve and increase the data on the efficacy of these devices.
Unfortunately, there are few assessments of green cleaning products at this time.
The few independent companies that conduct assessments define their own standards of green cleaners.
Read More About It
To read the EPA’s materials that guide purchasers of green cleaning products, please see the article:
OSHA also produces an INFO Sheet for employers on practices that keep employees safe while working with dangerous chemical cleaners and touches on the movement toward using safer, green cleaners in the workplace.
Important advice found in the Info Sheet:
- Just because the label contains the word “green” does not necessarily mean a cleaner is safe.
- Employers must check the chemicals in the cleaner to know the safety issues involved and to provide personal protection and training for employees, and
- Companies should select the right chemical for the right job (disinfecting v. cleaning v. sanitizing).
To learn more about the benefits of Green Cleaning Services, contact us today for a free quote!
In Bakersfield CA, call (661) 395-3009
In Fresno CA, call (559) 473-1790