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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Mandatory use of safe cleaning products in schools pushed
Writer: Lorelei V. Castillo, Media Affairs and Public Relations Service
08 May 2016 08:29:22 AM

A lawmaker has proposed the mandatory use of safe cleaning products in schools in order to protect children from harm and illness.

Rep. Alfredo D. Vargas III (5th District, Quezon City) filed House Bill 6481 to ensure that only environmentally preferable cleaning products shall be used to clean the school premises.

Vargas cited the United States' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which revealed that residues of more than 400 toxic chemicals have been identified in human blood and fat tissue. Some of these toxic chemicals have been found in household products and food.

"Dangerous ingredients such as caustics or solvents are present in ordinary household cleaning products. When improperly used, stored or disposed, they become health hazards," Vargas said.

Vargas said inhalation or accidental drinking of solvents, which are fast-drying substances that dissolve another substance, could be harmful and even fatal. Cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and liver and kidney problems, may be caused by long-term exposure to some solvents, he added.

He expressed alarm that even pleasant-smelling cleaning products such as laundry detergents, all-purpose sprays, dish soaps and scrub contain ingredients, which are dangerous to health.

"Our children, who are still developing their basic body systems, are more physically vulnerable to these cleaning products. The children's internal organs, respiratory and immune systems and brains are not yet fully developed," Vargas stressed.

Vargas said the bill not only aims to protect the health of students but the custodial staff and all other workers in the school as well.

Under the bill to be known as the "Safe Cleaning Products in School Act," schools both public and private shall ensure that only environmentally preferable cleaning products are used to clean their premises.

The property manager is mandated to use cleaning products certified as environmentally preferable by an independent third party.

However, a school may temporarily use non-environmentally preferable disinfectant in cases where blood, body fluids or fecal soiling is present on any surface or when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) makes a case-specific determination that failure to use environmentally preferable disinfectants would create a risk to public health and safety.

The bill prohibits that a school shall not purchase or allow the use of air fresheners in its premises.

Under the measure, a school environmental health website shall be jointly created by the Departments of Education, Health and Environment and Natural Resources and updated as necessary an electronic school environmental health clearing house site on the website of the DENR, including diagnostic checklists and searchable databases.

The website shall include information on materials and practices in common use in school operations and construction that may compromise indoor air quality or negatively impact human health; potential health problems association with these materials, with specific reference to children's vulnerability and information on integrated pest management and alternatives to chemical pest control.

The DENR, DepEd and DOH shall update the website at least twice yearly and whenever significant developments occur.