Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Breathing Easier: School Districts Make the Switch to Certified Green Cleaning Products

2009 | Download

Success stories from three California school districts

Many cleaning products used in schools—the very products used to try to create an ideal learning space—are made up of a wide variety of hazardous chemicals that contribute to asthma, cancer, reproductive harm, and damage to the body. The floors may sparkle, countertops may shine, and the air may smell fresh, but there may be a cost to the lungs and overall health of our children, teachers, and custodial staff. There are better ways to provide an ideal classroom.

PHI's Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) created this report on green cleaning in schools to highlight one important and effective way to improve air quality in schools—creating healthy environments in which students can learn and teachers can teach.

Read the report. 

School improvements are needed now, as asthma is a major problem for school-aged children. One in every six children in California have been diagnosed with asthma, a disease in which airways constrict, making breathing difficult, even impossible. Asthma is the leading cause of school absences due to chronic disease in the country, costing children their education, and schools some of their attendance-based funding.

Reducing triggers such as harmful cleaning products isn’t always easy, and we need leadership and commitment from a variety of stakeholders to make it happen. Some of that leadership is in place already: RAMP coordinates a California network of asthma coalitions called Community Action to Fight Asthma (CAFA), which shapes local, regional, and state policies to reduce environmental triggers of asthma among children in their schools, their homes, and outdoors. The CAFA network recently chose to focus on certified green cleaning as a way to reduce the burden of asthma in California’s schools. Several local asthma coalitions have already partnered with schools to adopt green cleaning policies.

Breathing Easier: School Districts Make the Switch to Certified Green Cleaning Products includes the following case studies: 

  • Fairfiend-Suisin Unified School District: When a District Takes an Issue to Heart
  • Elk Grove Unified School District: Green Before It Was Cool
  • Fresno Unifed School District: Aligning the Stars

The report also includes recommendations for what students, parents, advocates, school districts and even local and state government can do to create healthy, asthma-friendly schools. 

As this case study report shows, those schools are finding that the switch to certified green cleaners is not only feasible but also successful. These steps to a healthier school environment are grounded in the recognition that every child and school employee has the right to a safe, clean school environment that does not make them ill. These steps merit replication throughout California.

Creating healthy schools requires strong leadership with commitment, flexibility, and resourcefulness from a variety of school stakeholders at the local and state levels. The bottom line, however, is that we can do it: we can create healthy, ideal classrooms that our children and their teachers deserve.

PHI's Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP) promotes strategies for reducing asthma through a broad and comprehensive approach that includes clinical management and environmental prevention. RAMP brings together diverse partners, such as public health, community-based organizations, schools, and environmental health and justice groups to collaborate in reducing the burden of asthma, with a focus on communities disproportionately affected by the disease. RAMP coordinates Community Action to Fight Asthma, a network of asthma coalitions that advocates for policy changes at the local and statewide levels.

This report was prepared for RAMP by Your Message Media with funding from The California Endowment. Contributors to the report include Green Schools Initiative, Green Purchasing Institute, Environmental Working Group, California Teachers’ Association, Teachers for Healthy Kids, and the Coalition for Clean Air.