250635 Safer Alternatives in the Workplace: Cleaning for Asthma-Safe Schools

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Debbie Shrem, MPH , Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA
Justine Weinberg, MSEHS, CIH , Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA
Jennifer Flattery, MPH , Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Health Services, Richmond, CA
Background and Objectives: Research shows that con¬ventional cleaning products can cause or worsen asthma. Almost one in ten work-related asthma cases reported in California are related to cleaning products. Custodians have high rates of work-related asthma and 17% of children in the state have been diagnosed with asthma. With one in five Californians spending their day in school, encouraging districts to switch to asthma-safer cleaning products is particularly important. Methods: From 2009-2011, the Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program partnered with custodians in eight public school districts and one statewide charter school. Program staff assisted districts in transitioning from using conventional cleaning products to green products. Approximately 125 custodians and key school staff received training about the health concerns associated with cleaning products. Custodians also selected and evaluated asthma-safer products to test, and put forth recommendations for the entire district.

Results: Many custodians were initially skeptical about working with “green” cleaning products. After learning about the health impacts of conventional products and pilot-testing green products, custodians became better advocates for their own health. Custodians recommended switching to asthma-safer options for their district. Some custodians with asthma reported improved health outcomes.

Conclusion: Involving custodians in this process increased the likelihood that they would use healthier and asthma-safer products—several pilot districts transitioned to greener products. Custodians felt empowered, and their opinions were critical for making effective and acceptable purchasing choices. The Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program developed statewide guidelines to encourage more school districts to transition to healthier cleaning products.

Learning Areas:
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe efforts of the Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program’s Cleaning for Asthma-Safe Schools (CLASS)to involve workers in helping California schools adopt safer cleaning methods to protect worker and student health and prevent asthma. This is a project within the California Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Branch.

Keywords: Occupational Health, Asthma

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Debbie Shrem received her MPH from UNC Chapel Hill in Health Behavior and Health Education in 1997. She has almost ten years of work experience in the field of asthma. She worked as a clinical health educator at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, as well as in the California Department of Public Health on environmental and occupational asthma since 2004.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.