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Letters to the Editor

December 8, 2005
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Re: "Green Cleaning and the Cleaning Professional" (October 2005)

To the Editor:

The October interview with Arthur Weissman of Green Seal and Stephen Ashkin of the Ashkin Group presented some good information, but only presented one side of the issue of the "green movement" in cleaning products.

I think it's fair to say that everybody is for environmentally responsible cleaning products. The real issue is the definition of what constitutes a "green product." IICRC and CRI both raised objections to the GS-37 standard in early 2005. Green Seal nonetheless, implemented the new GS-37 standard for carpet cleaning products in March 2005 of this year (which I voted against).

That standard is totally unacceptable from my viewpoint as a formulator of carpet cleaning products. Of the products on the market at the time GS-37 was imposed, I would estimate that only one out of 100 existing products would meet their overly restrictive standard.

A good example is one raw material that we currently use from Dow Chemical. That raw material was excluded from any GS-37 cleaning product, and yet it is commonly prescribed by doctors to counteract metal toxicity in children. The FDA has approved it and the food industry uses it widely to stabilize food products. It does not meet the biodegradation standards for GS-37. These standards impose a 28-day maximum for 70% biodegradation (DOC). This standard is very restrictive for raw materials used in cleaning products. A large percentage of them have not been tested at all, and no one in the distribution chain has enough financial incentive to conduct the testing necessary to satisfy the 28-day test.

Another unreasonable portion of GS-37 stipulates that VOCs (solvents) cannot exceed 1/10 of 1% for carpet cleaning products. Glass cleaners, on the other hand, are allowed to contain 30 times as much (3% VOCs). While California excludes fragrances from their VOC standards, GS-37 does not. This provision alone will eliminate the majority of carpet pre-sprays from certification.

Phosphorus restrictions are also overly restrictive. The Cascade dishwashing powder I use at home is 7% phosphate, but GS-37 limits carpet cleaners to a maximum of 0.5 % as used.

There are also toxicity and combustibility standards that must be met which will eliminate alternate raw materials. The bottom line is that nearly all the cleaning chemicals we have now will fail the GS-37 testing. That will require compromising the cleaning effectiveness and value of new products to meet GS-37 requirements.

Today on the Green Seal web site, six months after the new GS-37 standards were approved, no specific carpet cleaners have even been certified to meet the standards. Chemspec has one product approved, but only as a general purpose cleaner.

Why does it matter if a product is GS-37 certified? Because Green Seal GS-37 is required for cleaning in any LEED existing commercial building program. Green Seal is also busily promoting to state legislatures and ISSA is opposing a current NY proposal. If not checked now, carpet cleaners will be forced to use these less effective products regardless of their preference.

Freedom of choice hangs in the balance!

--Larry Cobb
Cobb Carpet Supply

Re: "Green Cleaning and the Cleaning Professional" (October 2005)

Dear Sir:

You know, it is amazing the in an industry where everything has to be environmentally friendly, now we go and certify chemicals to be Green Seal approved. Did I miss something, or was there a law passed while I was sleeping? I don't remember any Federal Register from Congress. I know, according to the various states and the D.E.C. and the E.P.A., we are to buy environmentally preferred products. And according to Gov. Patacki in N.Y., if a product is safer than what you are using and just as effective, consider the change, but if it does not meet those two requirements there is nothing accomplished.

You have got to understand, I have been in this business 32 years and have seen all the changes. You have many organizations designed for owners, managers and supervisors. They all cover areas of technical expertise. They are the IICRC, CRI, IEHA, CM, BSCA, and I could probably name another dozen or so. And they all have a certification to them, and they all carry CEUs. Now I say, if you want to keep the environment safe, why not certify the people who keep it safe: the custodian, the janitor, the porter? Now wouldn't that be a novel idea? They have been doing that in Europe since 1976. The organization is call the British Institute of Cleaning Science. Now is that a smart idea, to have the people who are actually doing the work knowing what they are doing, and knowing the different government agencies they are responsible to?

In our industry a custodian is accountable for his or her knowledge on the OSHA standards for blood-borne pathogens, RTK hazardous communication, infectious waste, hazardous waste, universal waste, infection control practices, the Center for Disease Control, integrated pest management, indoor air quality, safety and security. They are ones taking care of the environment, so you better hope they know what they are doing, or as a manager you are not going to look so good.

I have worked for hospitals, nursing homes, commercial cleaning contractors and management firms. Yes, it is our job to make sure everything is going well, but in today's world that's almost impossible. Between meetings and administrative duties, you have to depend solely on your supervision, and I don't think there is full continuity in that area. So why not certify they person responsible for the final outcome of the work to be accomplished? They are the true keepers of the environment; they should have a certification.

We are not talking about rocket science, in essence we all do the same functions: high dust, low dust, vacuum, disinfect rest rooms, floors, carpets. There are not too many variations to these functions. But knowing the impact you impose on the environment is a whole different ball game. Now I believe we got left in the dust; they should be certified, for the role they play is a very important one. Why not be as professional as you can, as this is what you have chosen as a career? Let people be aware that even though your task may not require a degree, your function is as important as the heart beating in every human being, because without it, life does not function, and that goes for everyday routines. Believe me, if you were not there to clean your buildings or facilities, they would be intolerable to enter on a daily basis.

Your job is important. Get certified and be as professional as you can. Yes, Green Seal-approved chemicals are great for the environment. But they cannot think, so what may be safe can become hazardous to an untrained employee. Let's get a certification program going in this country and stop falling behind.

--Joseph Ranaldi, R.E.H
Massapequa, NY

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