Some traditional cleaning materials pose risks to the health of those who use them or are exposed to them, or to the waters into which residues are discharged. Potentially harmful ingredients include corrosive or irritating chemicals, chemicals that can cause occupational asthma (i.e., respiratory sensitizers), fragrances, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogens, reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, and alkylphenol ethoxylates (which break down into suspected aquatic toxins and endocrine disruptors). Phosphorous is a pollutant to the Chesapeake Bay and state law restricts its use in laundry or dish detergents. New cleaning materials have come into use in recent years that cause much less risk to human health and the environment.
The federal government has created standards for recycled content in the paper towels, tissues, and trash bags that it purchases. Some janitorial paper products are manufactured from virgin paper or in plantations that have been established in ecologically sensitive habitats. The use of chlorine bleaching compounds to whiten paper towels and other janitorial paper products can add to their negative environmental impacts.
Maryland Education Article §5-112 requires school districts to use green cleaning supplies. Use of green cleaning products and services is one of the factors that count toward Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification of existing green buildings. Maryland State Finance and Procurement Article §14-402 requires 90 percent of the paper products purchased by the Secretary of General Services to have recycled content.
For more information, see Maryland Green Purchasing Committee Newsletter, Winter 2014 Product Focus:
Environmentally Preferable Janitorial Supplies Specifications
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