“A six-month study in 12 Southern California [schools] documented an 83 percent increase in respiratory-related absences when daytime ozone levels increase by 20 parts per billion. In California, cleaning products release 32 tons of ozone-forming VOCs into the air each day. Certified green cleaning products must meet strict limits regarding the levels of volatile chemicals emitted, reducing their contribution to smog and asthma.”
It is for reasons such as this that all of the major green certification organizations — GreenSeal, Ecologo, GREENGUARD/UL Environment and others — now have strict guidelines regarding VOCs, (volatile organic compounds). They all require green alternatives of commonly used cleaning solutions to have limits on the number of VOCs their products release in order to be certified.
A VOC Refresher
While VOCs were a big topic when this report was issued and when green cleaning and the adoption of green cleaning strategies were first being considered and introduced into schools and universities, the subject no longer is headline news. So just as a reminder, let’s define what VOCs are. The U.S. Natural Library of Medicine defines VOCs this way: “Volatile organic compounds . . . are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases [becoming airborne]. Along with carbon, they contain elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen.”
VOCs are found in all kinds of products, not just cleaning solutions, including paint, building materials, adhesives and glues, fabrics, carpet and a host of other products used or found in colleges every day. Along with frequently causing respiratory problems, VOCs have been connected with cognitive issues, liver and kidney problems, vision changes and more.
Aware of these issues, many manufacturers in a variety of industries have done their due diligence in finding ways to reduce the number of VOCs their products release into the air. Further, if they want the product to be green certified, this usually is a must.
Cleaning and Ozone-Depleting VOCs
It has been said that green cleaning is a journey, and we are learning more all the time. One of the things that has come to light is that claims that an environmentally preferable cleaning product has “no VOCs” or a reduced number of VOCs may not be accurate, at least as it relates to indoor air quality.
When products are marketed with this claim along with a green certification label, what it really means is that these products have no or few ozone-depleting VOCs. That is, these products help to protect the ozone layer, which protects human life on earth. However, they may not necessarily be protecting indoor air quality.
According to Scott Laughlin, an account executive with GREENGUARD/UL Environment, some green certification organizations use a “gram per meter” measuring method when it comes to VOCs. A certain number of VOC grams per meter can be acceptable and will allow the product to be green certified. However, VOCs are still present, can become airborne and can have a negative impact on human health.
“These reactions [to VOCs] are of particular concern for cleaning workers,” says Laughlin. “They are using these green products daily and throughout the day, believing they are safe when in reality [the products] may be harmful.”
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AlturaSolutions helps businesses grow by turning words into sales. This article was published for client Avmor.