Many building service contractors are aware that green cleaning is a hot topic these days due to health and safety concerns by building owners and managers. We see increasing amounts of recycling bins in the buildings we clean, which is a sign that people are becoming more environmentally conscious. Steps are also being taken to reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals in many industries. As a janitorial contractor you can be a leader in your industry by exploring the many excellent environmentally preferable products available on the market today.
If the cleaning products you are using contain any of the following chemicals, you may be putting yourself, your employees, your customers, and the environment at risk.
Nonylphenoxpolyethoxyethanol, Nonylphenols and NPE/APE surfactants: These provide detergency to remove soil from a variety of surfaces. Although effective, they are petroleum-based products that may contain traces of ethylene oxide, which is a suspected carcinogen. NPE's have been shown to cause disruption to the endocrine system in aquatic species and are suspected of doing so in humans. The endocrine system is a series of glands, including the male and female reproductive glands, which secrete hormones. Endocrine disruption may be linked to birth defects. You may find the above chemicals in air fresheners, all-purpose cleaners, carpet spotters, disinfectant cleaners, floor strippers, and washroom fixture cleaners.
Glycol Butyl Ethers: This product is very effective on water-soluble dirt as well as water-insoluble oils and greases. The drawbacks are that it is very irritating to the respiratory tract and eyes. It also reacts violently with strong mineral acids and is not biodegradable. You may find this product in air fresheners, carpet spotters, floor finish removers, food service cleaners, glass cleaners and heavy-duty cleaners.
Phosphates: Phosphates are used in products to soften water, maintain alkalinity levels, suspend dirt and increase cleaning efficiency. It can become an environmental hazard if dumped into a closed body of water, which leads to the potential for excessive algae growth. Excessive algae growth can lead to the depletion of oxygen levels and can eventually kill aquatic life. This product may be found in all-purpose cleaners, carpet spotters, disinfectant cleaners and heavy-duty cleaners.
Xylene: Is a petroleum based product which is non biodegradable, flammable, must be disposed of as hazardous waste and requires solvent clean up. It is commonly used to reduce or thin solvent coatings such as concrete coatings. High levels of inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and even death. Exposure over long periods of time has the potential to cause damage to bone marrow eyes and stomach.
Dibutyl Phthalate: This product is a known endocrine disrupter. It has shown to cause a high frequency of birth defects in some aquatic species. It is also suspected of having the same potential in humans. You can normally find this chemical in resilient tile coatings.
These are a few examples of the hazardous chemicals that may be found in conventional cleaning products. If you are concerned about what's in the cleaning products you are using, consult your Material Safety Data Sheets. They should list the ingredients and the potential health and flammability risks.
Rumor has it that there will be a mandate to use environmentally preferable products in all federal buildings as early as this year. Whether it happens this year or not, the fact of the matter is that it will happen. There are many proven environmentally preferable products on the market today. One place you can find them and find answers to any questions you may have is at www.TheJanitorialStore.com .
You can also use environmentally preferable products as sales tools, as more and more people are becoming increasingly concerned about our environment and the environment they work in. Be a leader in your industry by taking steps to implement safer cleaning products and provide a healthier atmosphere for yourself, your employees, your customers, and the environment
Steve Hanson is co-founding member of The Janitorial Store (TM), an online community for owners and managers of cleaning companies who want to build a more profitable and successful cleaning business. Sign up for Trash Talk: Tip of the Week at http://www.TheJanitorialStore.com and receive a Free Gift!