·      About one-third of the cleaning chemicals used today have ingredients that can harm you (39). 


·      Purchase environmentally preferable cleaners that meet the following standards: 

No carcinogens 

No or low VOCs 

No ozone depleting or global warming substances 


No mutagens, teratogens, or Neurotoxins 

No APE’s 

No hazardous ingredients 

No phosphates 

No or low skin, eye & inhalation irritants 

No or low dyes and fragrances 

Moderate pH (2.0 – 11.5) 

Recyclable packaging 

Flash point > 140°F  

Non-aerosol containers (difficult to recycle) 

Reactivity rating = 1 or less 

Vapor pressure < 19 mm Hg at 20ºC 

Refillable or returnable containers 

LD50 > 500 mg/kg 

Concentrated products 

Each year, six of every one hundred professional janitors are injured by the chemicals they use. Burns to the eyes and skin are the most common injuries, followed closely by breathing toxic fumes. 

Cleaning products are the chemicals most frequently involved in poisonings reported to Poison Centers nationally. They are estimated to contribute roughly 12% of all VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions in California (40). 

Chemicals in some cleaning products contribute to indoor air pollution. EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that levels of many pollutants may be two to five times (and occasionally more than 100 times) higher than outdoor levels.  These levels are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors (41). 

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are commonly found in paints and cleaning supplies, varnishes and waxes, building materials and furnishings and evaporate into the air when these products are used indoor (41.5). These chemicals irritate the eyes, nose and throat; cause headache and nausea; damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Most seriously, they may lead to cancer.

In 1994, the World Resources Institute stated, “of the 17,000 chemicals that appear in common household products, only 30% have been adequately tested for their negative effects on human health; less than 10% have been tested for their effect on the nervous system; and nothing is known about the combined effects of these chemicals when mixed within the body” (42).  After16 years of research, the potential health effects of most chemicals contained in the household products are now available to the consumers. A detailed database was established by National Library of Medicine (NLM) in 2010 (42.5).

"Signal words" required by the U.S. EPA Office of Pesticides and Toxic Substances warn consumers of the risk for (undiluted) chemical products. This rating system is based on the greatest risk for inhalation, dermal exposure, harmful effects on the eye or skin. Toxicologists use the term "LD-50" as a benchmark to determine the lethal dose for 50% of a population (lower LD-50 = greater toxicity). LD-50 rankings are as follows: 

1) Danger: a single taste to a teaspoon can be fatal to an adult (LD-50: <50 mg/kg = category 1) 

2) Warning: a teaspoon to an ounce can be fatal to an adult (LD-50: 50-500 mg/kg = category 2) 

3) Caution: an ounce to a pint can be fatal to an adult (LD-50: >500 mg/kg = category 3-4) 

Hazardous ingredients, which are found in most conventional cleaning products, are rated according to their "permissible exposure level" (PEL). The PEL tells how much of an air contaminant a worker can be exposed to for 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, over a working lifetime (30 years), without suffering adverse health effects. 

The "threshold limit value" (TLV) is a term used to express how much of a substance in the air nearly everyone can be exposed to day after day, without adverse effects.

Unfortunately, because most chemicals have not been tested for their long-term health implications, reproductive effects or potential to cause cancer, these PEL and TLV descriptions merely serve as warnings. 

Linen Service


·      Laundry detergents contain billions of pounds of chemicals, many of which are toxic to aquatic organisms. 

·      Almost all of these chemicals are released into the environment in wastewater (43). 


·      Use linen service providers that use environmentally preferable cleaners as recognized by TRSA Green certification. 

·      Create or expand an on-site laundry system with organic linens, ecologically safe cleaners as well as energy and water-efficient machines. 

Pest Management


·      Many pesticides are known to cause adverse health effects including acute and persistent injury to the nervous system, lung damage, injury to reproductive organs, dysfunction of the immune and endocrine/hormone systems, birth defects, and cancer.


·      Look for Green Sheild and GreenPro Certified Pest Companies.

Of the 28 conventional pesticides that are most widely used by commercial pesticide applicators, over 40% are classified by the agency as carcinogens (able to cause cancer). Total use of the pesticides classified as carcinogens, for all U.S. applications, is a staggering 350 million pounds per year (44). 

For most pest problems, the application of pesticides and other chemicals is not necessary. The principles of IPM encourage people to examine the source of the problem before resorting to chemicals. The solution may be as simple as cleaning our your garbage bins and sealing any cracks in the floors or walls. 

Candles & Chafing Fuel


·      Candles and chafing fuels emit toxic substances into the air 


·      Purchase non-toxic alternatives

Paraffin, the final byproduct in the petroleum refining process, is the predominant wax used in the candle industry. The soot given off from burning paraffin candles is the same as that given off by burning diesel fuel, emitting toluene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and naphthalene--substances found in paint, lacquer and varnish removers. The EPA has determined that benzene & toluene are human carcinogens. Most chafing fuel canisters contain hazardous ingredients that require special storage (due to high flash point), cause toxic emissions, and cause land and water pollution upon disposal. 

About 30% of the candles on the market have core wicks containing lead, a potentially toxic heavy metal. (The purpose is to make the wicks stand up straight to facilitate candle manufacturing). The University of Michigan has conducted a study that indicated that 1/3 of candles released more lead into the air than is recommended as safe by the EPA (45). 

Beeswax candles are a cleaner alternative, as they are non-toxic, non-allergenic and often available from local sources. Candles made from palm oil are another option. It is important to note that palm grows naturally across the tropics, mainly in rainforests, and overharvesting could lead to deforestation. In the absence of standards that pertain to harvesting palm oil, consumers should seek out manufacturers that participate in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (45.5).   

For chafing fuels, look for ethanol-based products that don’t contain methanol.