The environmentally friendly glass cleaner used in Northwest Suburban District 214 has been leaving streaks.

There’s an easy fix — some simple adjustments in how a new “green” formula is used.

Requiring such cleaners is part of a move to reduce toxic chemicals in schools across Illinois and in turn improve indoor air quality.

“You would think, ‘What’s the big deal about cleaning glass?’ Well, it’s a big deal in schools,” said Seymour Schwartz, who oversees 2.5 million square feet as director of buildings and grounds.

Finding a better non-streak formula is the type of challenge that soon will face all Illinois public and private elementary and secondary schools with 50 or more students.

It is not like a switch will be flipped, as many schools already are riding the green wave. But on Friday, 5,659 schools will have to comply with the requirements of the Green Cleaning Schools Act.

That means schools will have to use environmentally sensitive products in six categories covering the bulk of day-to-day cleaning tasks. They can use up any traditional supplies on hand. After that only “pre-qualified” products are acceptable.

The intent is to promote a healthier environment for students, staff, visitors and cleaning crews. Ingredients such as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, contained in some traditional products can cause breathing and other problems, supporters contend.

“The schools use them in very large quantities, and the scent and fumes are incredibly strong. This is very damaging for kids who have susceptible lungs,” said Lilliana De Santiago, manager of community education for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

The association helped develop the requirements and recommendations.

Indoor air is typically two to five times worse than outdoor air and can be up to 100 times more polluted, according to the Healthy Schools Campaign, a not-for-profit group that pushed for the law.

Many traditional cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that contribute to the pollution, the group says, and half of all schools have an indoor air quality problem.

Green cleaning can improve that environment and keep students healthy and in school, it says.

It appears to work, at least anecdotally, in Gurnee Elementary District 56, which has been aggressively moving to green cleaning products for the past year.

At Viking Middle School, nurse Joan Brumm says she has seen a 50 percent reduction in both illness and asthma attacks.

“We’ve had good results,” she said.

Part of the reduction in illnesses may have been a result of an intensive cleaning effort and general awareness of infections like MRSA but wouldn’t have affected the reports of asthma, she said.

And while educators agree green cleaning is a good idea, there are some concerns with the law, including availability, price and effectiveness of required products.

Full Story: