Beware the Unscrupulous Vendor: Disinfectants, H1N1 and Green Cleaning

December 15, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

The EPA issued a press release warning us
all “to beware of unscrupulous vendors” who try to sell us ineffective
or unnecessary products that claim to protect us against H1N1.
According to the press release:

“Unfortunately
some vendors may try to take advantage of people’s fears at a time like
this and market products that aren’t effective or make unsubstantiated
claims,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of
Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “Americans need to be
aware of what they may be buying
.”

This
is right on. And while it applies to the purchases we make in our
homes, it also is an important lesson for our schools — especially when
implementing a green cleaning program.

Protection
against H1N1 really takes three important steps: Education, Cleaning,
and then Disinfection. All of these steps are outlined in HSC's Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools:

1. PREVENT INFECTION THROUGH EDUCATION

Students,
teachers, coaches, and all school staff must be educated about the
importance of hygiene and frequent, thorough hand-washing, and the
school nurse can play a key role in developing a hygiene education plan
for the school. Recent studies show that through proper hand hygiene,
schools can actually decrease student absenteeism. If possible,
students and school employees should have access to appropriate
hand-washing facilities. If not, hand sanitizers should be made
available.

2. DEVELOP AND FOLLOW A THOROUGH GREEN CLEANING PROGRAM

Health
is the goal of a proper green cleaning program. Along with
environmental benefits, infection control becomes the natural byproduct
of an effective cleaning program. Through proper cleaning, the spread
of germs can be significantly reduced and controlled, and overall
health improved.

3. DISINFECT WHEN AND WHERE NECESSARY

Many
of the harsh chemicals in disinfectants are highly caustic, toxic in
nature and may decrease the quality of the indoor air. Minimizing
potential exposure to these chemicals can promote health and wellbeing
while still reducing risk associated with the spread of infectious
diseases.

When
disinfectants are used, it is important to use them as part of a larger
green cleaning program, rather than as a hasty reaction. Disinfectant
use should be limited to high-touch areas such as door handles,
keyboards, light switches, and tables. When selecting a disinfectant,
work with vendors to select the least toxic, most affordable option,
and always choose EPA registered products.

Here are some great resources for more information:

1) HSC's Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools

2) CDC's Swine Flu and You

3) Selecting green disinfectants for this flu season from American School & University magazine

If you want to read an account of a school facility director's efforts
to clean green while protecting against H1N1, check out this recent blog entry.

Finally, be sure to stay tuned for details about HSC's upcoming webinar, Green Cleaning Your School In the Age of H1N1, scheduled for late January 2010. The webinar will feature experts in the field of green cleaning for infection control. More details coming soon!