One More Reminder that Green Cleaning Matters: Cancer Panel’s Report Notes the Effects of Toxins on

August 10, 2010

As we prepare to release the next edition of our Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools, we're taking a moment to highlight a recent report that underscores a message worth repeating: reducing chemical exposures matters, especially for kids.

Earlier this year, President Obama's Cancer Panel released Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do NowThe 240-page report [PDF] reinforces what many know – that children are especially vulnerable to environmental contaminants and should be protected. The report says:

  • Children are especially at risk because of their small body mass and rapid growth and development of organs. 
  • In adults, most contaminants are not able to cross the blood/brain barrier, but environmental contaminants can cross the placental barrier — increasing risks to developing children. 
  • Children's metabolic pathways are also not yet completely developed, making them slower to rid the body of environmental chemicals, meaning that toxins stay active longer than in adult bodies. 
  • Another important factor is the latency period of diseases. Children have more time ahead of them to develop disease, so diseases with long latency periods are more likely to develop in children than in adults.

Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk also highlights a USA Today survey in which, of 20,000 schools, one of every six are within a half-mile of a major industrial plant. And despite this high number, little is known about the health and development effects of exposure to the multiple air pollutants caused by these plants. The report also notes that only three states (Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) require radon control in construction of new schools; radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, causing 21,000 deaths annually. 

What can we do? In addition to green, healthy construction (and renovation) and more attention to school siting, green cleaning provides an important way to reduce potentially toxic chemical exposures in schools. 

Children spend the majority of their day at school, so reducing chemical exposures in the school building can have a positive impact on their health for a lifetime. Green cleaning a critical, everyday component of a healthier  learning environment. It also has significant benefits for the health of adults in the building, particularly school staff who work closely on cleaning.

To learn more about HSC's green cleaning resources or access the free Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools visit www.GreenCleanSchools.org!