How to green your child's school

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3. Perfume packs a powerful punch. Perfumes and fragrances, whether worn straight or found in sunscreen, cleaning products, or air fresheners, are often a toxic slew of neurotoxins and are rated among the top 5 worst allergens in the world. Encourage your child’s school to develop a fragrance-free policy for staff, students, cleaners, and school supplies (and remember air fresheners can be some of the worst offenders).

4. Open the windows! Outdoor air is generally cleaner than indoor air and simply opening the windows can greatly improve indoor air quality. As well, studies are finding that students perform better in classrooms with more daylight and operable windows. 

B. Find alternatives to antibacterial hand soap. Walk into most schools and daycares and antibacterial hand soap is everywhere. Antibacterial soaps typically contain the pesticide Triclosan, which has been linked to liver, thyroid, and endocrine (hormone development) disorders in children. Antibacterial soaps are also related to the development of antibiotic resistant Super Bugs. The EU labels Triclosan: “irritating to eyes and skin; dangerous fro the environment; very toxic to aquatic organisms.” The American Medical Association, Food and Drug Administration, and Health Canada all discourage its use and say that it works no better than hand washing with plain soap and water.

What you can do as a parent to limit your child's exposure to Triclosan and encourage safer hand washing at school: Strongly advocate that your child's school ban antibacterial hand soap. Start in your child's classroom by printing out a sheet about the problems of antibacterial soaps and bringing in a safer alternative. Plain soap is the best (Dr. Bronners liquid soap is one of our favorites). Read labels (and avoid products with more than a handful of ingredients). Read more on how to find safer skin-care products and the problems of antibacterial soaps.

C. Improve school lunches. The USDA, which is on record as saying that rGBH milk is safe and cloned meats are fine, is responsible for the school lunch program in the US. They in effect buy up foods that consumer don’t want and serve it to school kids in their lunches. A square meal: ketchup and french fries (which both count as a vegetable serving) and irradiated beef sitting squarely on white bread as the protein. Wash that all down with hormone-laden milk and it is no wonder so many parents ask: “What CAN we do about school lunches?” (Read more about the problems with school lunches.)

Organic food is most important for children and babies: “Due to their smaller size, fast-growing speedy metabolisms, and less varied diets, infants and children are more vulnerable to health and developmental damage,” says Dr. Greene. Food also can effect children with ADHD, asthma, and make it easier (or more difficult) for any child to learn.

Five easy ways you can help provide your child with healthier school lunches:

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As a former out-of-school care staffer ...

Having worked in 8 different out-of-school care centres in Vancouver's east side I read this article with great interest and feel that many of the suggestions offered here would be welcome and positive changes in childcare/school settings.

Most of the centres I worked at use diluted bleach solutions to wash everything and most of the time they are not properly measured (eyeballing) and are not regularly re-mixed. Cleaning is often rushed, and hand washing before snack time is tokenistic at best, with the emphasis on getting hands under the tap rather than preventing the spread of diseases.

Supervisors typically do not listen to staff about what types of cleaning solutions should be used in daycare settings, but they do listen to parents!

You can use your voice as a parent to improve conditions at your child's school/care facility, especially if you highlight that you, the staff, the teachers, and the supervisors all want the same thing for children: the best possible environment for the kids.

You are not only doing the kids a favour, but also the staff who often don't have a voice in these decisions or are pressured to keep a schedule rather than look after the best interests of the kids in their care.


Response from IFRA North America

The fragrance industry has a long-standing and effective safety program setting safety standards for the use and manufacturing of fragrance materials. The fact is that fragrances are safe. They are immensely popular with consumers and are used in all sorts of everyday products.The safety and testing of fragrance ingredients is discussed in this animated video: