Cleaning supplies often contain harmful chemicals that, when introduced to the environment or to the human body, can have devastating effects. 10% of the reported poisonings at Poison Centers are caused by cleaning supplies. Many contain VOCs, phosphates, EDTA and phenolic compounds. These compounds can be carcinogenic to humans and create hazards, such as algal blooms, in the environment. Air pollution is another major concern. An EPA study found that cleaning products can contribute to elevated indoor air pollution levels that register up to 200 times those typically found outside. Additionally, many cleaners are not biodegradable and persist in the environment for long periods of time. They especially create problems in aquatic habitats where they often wind up after improper disposal. A staggering quantity of cleaning supplies are disposed of improperly. In Minnesota alone, 700 tons of cleaners are dumped down the drain every month.
Look for the following characteristics when purchasing cleaning products:
- Both Biodegradable and Non-Toxic: To humans, as well as fish and animals.
- No EDTA or NTA: These ingredients should be avoided because they are suspected carcinogens.
- No Phosphates: These are responsible for algal blooms that devastate aquatic environments and should be avoided.
- No Chlorine Bleach: If bleach containing chlorine is introduced to the waste stream, it can react with other compounds to create harmful chlorinated organic compounds.
- Vegetable Based: Look for cleaners that use vegetable based surfactants.
- Low VOC Content: Green Seal recommends using cleaners that have less than 10% VOC content by weight in the concentration intended for use.
- Concentrated: Buy cleaners in concentrated form to cut down on packaging.
- Dilution in Cold Water: this cuts down on energy costs associated with heating water.
TheGreenOffice.com offers a wide selection of of eco-friendly cleaning supplies
Using environmentally-sound cleaners in a conscientious manner will considerably improve your office’s green performance:
- Dilute cleaners in cold water to reduce the energy consumption associated with heating water.
- Use cleaners sparingly – a little goes a long way.
- Try to clean messes with soap and water before moving to heavy-strength cleaners.
- Use cotton rags instead of paper-towels: They can be reused and then recycled.
- Consider cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and lemon.