Scrub Walls, Baseboards and Outlets
Tom DiPace/AP Images
Clean Faucets and Showerheads
Clean Out the Dryer Vent
Sarah Wilson / Getty Images
Wash Exterior Windows
Keep Allergens Away
Photos: Christopher Shane/Styling: Elizabeth Demos
Check Foundation Vents
Clean the Grill
Prep Your Garden
Test Smoke Alarms
Clean Outdoor Furniture
A new survey has found office workers who don’t clean up their workspace put everyone’s health at risk, according to an article on the TechTimes website.
Printerland, a reseller of printers in the UK, surveyed more than 1,000 office workers and found two-thirds of them didn’t clean up their workspace regularly. One in 10 workers said they cleaned their desk once a month, while another 9 percent said they never cleaned their space.
By not cleaning, office workers in messy environments are at risk from harmful bacteria, including Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, E-coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
The messy office showed that bugs are present on office chairs (21,000 germs per square inch) and desks, desktops (20,961 germs per square inch), keyboards (3,295 germs per square inch), computer mice (1,676 germs per square inch), and office phones (25,127 germs per square inch), according to the article.
Plus, at least 90 percent of office mugs contain harmful germs on their surface, which 20 percent of them carry fecal bacteria. Charles Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona, recommended employees take their coffee mugs and dishes home every night to clean.
Proper cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched objects and areas reduces the spread of viruses by 80 to 90 percent. Gerba suggests cleaning office items, such as phones and desks with antibacterial spray at least once a week. In addition, office chairs should be vacuumed.
To reduce cross-contamination, cleaning personnel should make sure restroom are stocked with soap and towels. However, since restrooms may be taxed, hand sanitizer should also be made available. Setting up hand sanitizer stations in common areas, such as lobbies and breakrooms, as well as frequently used collaborative spaces, will encourage use, especially by occupants who feel they are too busy to visit the restrooms to wash hands when needed.
In its 16th year now, National Healthy Schools Day seeks to inform the public of health risks that can affect children in educational and child care settings
April 3, 2018, Clearwater FL — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that 50% of all schools have problems with indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ issues can be comprised of a complex mix of sources including aging facility infrastructure, deferred maintenance, fouled HVAC systems, dirty ducts, and the use of toxic products for cleaning, among other contributing factors. Every year since 2002, National Healthy Schools Day mission is to inform the administrators and public on these vital issues in an effort to bring awareness and change to the maintenance and safety of educational institutions across the country. The EPA urges schools to “Use the day to take the necessary steps to effectively manage the indoor air quality in your schools, ensuring you are providing your students and staff with a healthy learning environment.”
The focus of National Healthy Schools Day 2018is lead. According to the EPA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no safe level of lead for any child. Like many other indoor environmental hazards common to schools, lead has long been ignored. However, more schools and child care facilities are becoming more proactive on lead, especially in drinking water. But the fact remains that lead is ubiquitous throughout an educational environment such as in building and instructional materials, as well as other products and even the soil on the property’s grounds.
“It is time to put children first and end lead and other risks to all children in school and child care,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director of Healthy Schools Network, the national not-for-profit that co-founded and hosts Healthy Schools Day. She added, “For the 16th annual Day, we thank all the education and health leaders and staff in the states who have recognized the high cost of lead and other toxics to the future of children and are taking action to find and to reduce risks in school and child care settings.”
The good news is more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of optimal IAQ in the learning environment. This year a record number of 59 NGOs nationwide are engaged in the event.
Who is most affected?
Across the U.S. over 55 million children and 7 million adults occupy 130,000 public and private schools. Add to that another 11 million children in child care facilities. All totaled, over 1/5 of the U.S. population is in one of these institutions on a daily basis. Today there are fewer public schools than in year’s past, but more children in them and with less federal and state funding. Schools in disadvantaged communities are often in the worst condition from an architectural and infrastructure standpoint. This can likely correlate to these facilities having the most lead in their buildings’ paint and water systems.
What can be done to improve IAQ?
The first step to finding and fixing IAQ issues is to have a proactive administrative and facilities team willing to invest in the building health of their education institutions. This means having their facilities regularly tested, not just for lead but for the myriad of factors that can deteriorate the health of the indoor environment.
“One of our main focuses has been creating healthy learning environments so students can achieve higher academic learning in healthy buildings,” says Alan Wozniak, President of Pure Air Control Services, Inc., “Our Building Sciences team is constantly working with both k-12 and higher education institutions to proactively test and report on the IAQ in their facilities. If issues are found, the detailed reports provided are integral in the remediation process to get the building back to an optimal state of operations and a healthy learning environment.”
IAQ testing can encompass the entire building envelope or concentrate on a specific area on interest in a forensic level investigation of an issue. In the case of lead, water, surface and air samples can be taken from the indoor environment and sent to a laboratory for in-depth analysis. The lab can then qualify and quantify what is in the samples to help determine the severity of the issue in the specific locations where the samples were collected. Of course if concentrations are found and report the proper corrective remediation actions must be taken.
IAQ testing can also be conducted for other issues that can affect the health of a building and its occupants. Things like bacteria, dust mites, fungi (mold) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can all proliferate in the indoor environment. They often act as allergy and asthma triggers which can affect student performance and attendance. Dust and debris built up inside of the HVAC system not only contributes to these allergen triggers, but also can decrease the performance of the equipment which can lead higher humidity and CO2 levels within a building. Not to mention higher energy costs.
National Healthy Schools Day is an important advocacy event that helps bring awareness to the importance of good IAQ for educational institutions throughout the U.S. With this in mind, more schools should be encouraged to take a proactive approach to their indoor environment to ensure healthy facilities for their students and staff all year long.
MALIBU, Calif. | PCBs The high school here is ranked among the best in the country, with students each year moving on to Ivy League colleges. The location, on a hill down the block from the beach where “Baywatch” was filmed, offers a multimillion-dollar view of the Pacific Ocean.
Yet parents here have been yanking their children out of Malibu High School, concerned about PCBs, the highly toxic chemical compounds, that have been found in caulking of the school’s windows.
A battle over how to handle the PCBs, which were first discovered three years ago, is now convulsing this famously wealthy beach community, with parents, television stars and a supermodel pitted against one of the most elite public school districts in the country.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District insists that its classrooms are safe; the Environmental Protection Agency agrees.
But not all parents and teachers are convinced: They blame PCBs for an array of maladies, including migraines, thyroid cancer and common colds, and they have sued to compel the district to remove all contaminated caulking. A judge ruled last week that the lawsuit could move forward.
In the meantime, school board meetings have turned chaotic, with parents shouting down district officials and calling them liars.
“The school district is telling us our kids are safe, but that’s what they were telling parents in Flint, Mich.,” said Jennifer deNicola, a mother of an eighth grader and a 10th grader who has spearheaded the push to remove PCBs. “We know there’s a problem, and they refuse to acknowledge it.”
But school and health officials insist that simply because PCBs are in the building materials does not mean the students are at risk of exposure. The school district tests the air in classrooms — the primary medium through which children could be exposed — and cleans regularly to reduce dust from the caulking, school officials said.
“Just because something is present doesn’t mean it can cause harm,” said Doug Daugherty, a managing principal at Ramboll Environ, the environmental consulting firm the district has hired.
The district has already spent millions of dollars on lawyers, environmental consultants and a public-relations campaign.
But, this being Malibu, parents have waged their own media campaign, complete with environmental experts and celebrity advocates. Cindy Crawford, the supermodel, has gone on national television to explain why she pulled her two children from Malibu High, and offered to pay to test caulking for PCBs throughout the campus, which also includes an elementary school and a middle school. (Her offer was declined.)
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were widely used in building materials and electronics until they were banned in the late 1970s, and they remain in many older buildings. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that the substances could be present in upward of 20,000 schools nationwide. The compounds have been linked to cancer, immune problems and lower I.Q.s among children.
Federal law requires that any building materials found to contain PCBs be removed. But to the chagrin of parents here, there was no requirement to test the caulking in the first place.
Jennifer deNicola, a mother of two who has spearheaded the push to have PCBs removed, with her daughter Sami, 13, whom she is now home-schooling. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
The E.P.A. has endorsed the district’s approach to handling the PCBs in its buildings. And scientists who studied PCBs in New York City schools said this method — of testing air quality and cleaning assiduously — was very effective.
Laurie Lieberman, the president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified school board, said the administration had confidence in the safety of its facilities and has been doing its best to reassure parents.
“We have tremendous empathy for people who are fearful and scared,” Ms. Lieberman said. “We’ve really tried to explain why the schools are safe now.”
Malibu parents have a history of skepticism about official health advice, including routine childhood vaccinations: At some local elementary schools in 2014, fewer than 60 percent of kindergarten students had received the full lineup of recommended vaccines, far below the state average.
In this case, the distrust on both sides became plain last fall, when supporters of caulking removal secretly took their own samples from classrooms and had them independently tested. Ms. deNicola announced that the results showed extraordinarily high levels of PCBs. The school district asked the sheriff’s office to investigate her for trespassing and vandalism.
The battle now threatens to tear apart the school district: Concern over PCBs has fueled an existing effort here to break away from Santa Monica so that Malibu can be in control of its own schools.
Beth Lucas, a parent, pulled her son, Christian, out of Malibu High after their endocrinologist said it was especially dangerous for him to remain there. Christian, now 17, had a malignant brain tumor at age 6, and the radiation used to treat it left him with a diminished immune system and thus more vulnerable to the effects of PCBs, the doctor told the family.
“We moved to Malibu for the schools, so it has been a big slap in the face to have the school district treat the parents and teachers and children so poorly,” Ms. Lucas said. She is also considering removing her daughter, who is in middle school, at the end of the year, but worried about the cost of private school.
“Yes, we live in this nice house,” she said, sitting on a hilltop porch that overlooked a wide expanse of ocean. “I don’t want to have to sell my house and leave Malibu. The district has put us in a horrible position.”
Currently, only one of the seven school board members represents Malibu. He supports replacing the caulking, but has been voted down by board members who live in Santa Monica.
“I think the board members have convinced themselves that the science is right and the parents are overreacting,” said Craig Foster, Malibu’s representative on the school board, and the father of a seventh grader at the middle school here. “But what if in five years it turns out testing the air and dust wasn’t enough? How do you sleep?”
Some other school districts across the country have acted more aggressively, often at the E.P.A.’s behest, to remove the source of PCBs. Parents here point to Clark Elementary School in Hartford as an example of a school district that handled matters responsibly: In that case, an entire school building was closed — and may be abandoned — because of PCB contamination.
But testing at Clark Elementary indicated elevated levels of PCBs in the air, whereas testing at Malibu High has not, E.P.A. officials said.
Jim Jones, an assistant administrator at the E.P.A., said the agency worked with schools to “get below the risk threshold using the best management practices.”
“We’re always trying to find what’s a cheaper way,” Mr. Jones said, adding that the caulking at Malibu High would all be replaced within several years as part of planned renovations. For now, he said, cleaning and ventilation are “far less costly than removal.”