Wayne< My quick advice is
1. MSDSs must list ingredients--no proprietary stuff. If they won't tell you what it is, that should be a deal breaker.
2. Natural solvents like citrus, pine, and turpentine are all too toxic for this use. The TLV for turp is 20 ppm, the MAK for d-limonene is 5 ppm and while pine has no air quality standard, you only have to look at the structure to know it is going to be a player in the same ballpark. They also react with pollution levels of ozone in indoor environments to raise formaldehyde levels--a phenomena also seen above forests.
Turp and limonene are EPA-registered pesticides, so if you need a biodegradable pesticide for occasional use, I recommend them. But don't scrub down the school everyday with them.
3. You probably can't avoid the glycol ethers as a class of super grease cutters such as 2-butoxyethanol and it's kissing kin, but warn people that the TLV for 2BTE is 20 ppm and most other glycol ethers' TLVs are low or they are unstudied. They are skin absorbers, and 2BTE will go right through rubber gloves without changing their appearance. They are probably reproductive hazards. The primary glycol ethers are animal nuggie shrinkers which sometimes gets the attention of your male maintenance workers.
4. Make sure they all understand the definitions of the various nefarious "sustainability" and eco-friendly terms.
a) "no VOCs" means no volatile chemicals that react with sunlight to create smog. All other solvents are exempt such as acetone, ethyl and methyl acetates, and many more. And EPA can do other weird things such as declaring 2BTE a VOC in industrial products but not a VOC in consumer products. Go figure. So "no VOCs" may be good for smog control, but it has NOTHING to do with your health.
b) "Biodegradable" only means the stuff is not persistent in the environment and breaks down into something--often something that has not been fully studied as we found out with the nonyl phenol ethoxylates (banned in the EU, but still causing the alligators and fish in our lakes and streams to grow teeny weeny penies). The old phosphate detergents that were banned and replaced with this and other detergents were not very toxic to people. They were just fertilizer for algae.
c) "Natural biodegradable" products are almost always more toxic to people than the petroleum distillate solvents they are replacing. Biodegradable has NOTHING to do with you health.
d) "Sustainable" means the stuff comes from a renewable source such as a tree or plant. Where is it written that Mother Nature loves you? There is absolutely no reason to assume something from a plant is any safer for you than something from plants and animals compressed under the earth geologically such as petroleum. And this is especially true of sustainable products that have been significantly altered such as using soy oil to make detergents, resins, etc. The source of the product has NOTHING to do with your health.
5. Don't accept any of the certified labels and EPA-approvals without finding out what manufacturers legally must provide to get these labels. You will be depressed for weeks.
Instead, find out what chemicals are in the stuff and look up what is known or NOT KNOWN about them. When in doubt, get an EU SDS on that ingredient from the Internet, scroll down to Section II, toxicology, and see if anything is actually known about chronic or long term hazards. You'll find most of the chemicals you will be looking up will have no chronic data.. Then apply the Precautionary Principle.
And I could go on. Helping the earth is a noble aim. I'm all for it. But to think that using these sustainable and biodegradable products will also be better for your health is to be remain ignorant and a patsy for every fast talking salesperson.
In a message dated 12/5/2012 5:50:54 AM Eastern Standard Time, Wayne.Phan**At_Symbol_Here**POMONA.EDU writes:
We are looking to switch to our housekeeping cleaning chemicals to more sustainable and less hazardous substance. Any advice or recommendation. I have been talking to a couple of vendors but would love to get addition feedback.
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