257484 Schools that are greener make the air cleaner: Partnering with custodians for asthma-safe schools

Monday, October 29, 2012

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: Almost one in nine work-related asthma (WRA) cases reported in California are linked to cleaning products. Custodians have high rates of WRA, large numbers of other educational services workers are affected by WRA, and 17% of children in California have been diagnosed with asthma. With one in five Californians spending their day in school, encouraging districts to use safer cleaning products is particularly important. Purpose: To create written guidelines for school districts to transition from using conventional cleaning products and methods to asthma-safer products and methods. Significance: Using green cleaners helps prevent exposure to chemicals that cause or worsen asthma. These products are third-party certified to meet health and environmental criteria. For example, they limit volatile organic compounds and prohibit carcinogens and reproductive toxicants. Green cleaning frequently reduces costs. Methodology: The Work-Related Asthma Prevention Program (WRAPP) partnered with the Green Schools Initiative and custodial and facilities directors from ten school districts. WRAPP provided technical assistance to guide districts in their transition to asthma-safer cleaning, and solicited feedback to implement the written guidelines. Findings: Facing budget cuts, custodians must accomplish more with less. Providing seed funding, training, and technical assistance helped districts transition to green cleaning. Anticipated results will show that creating guidelines written in a compelling, simple and easy-to-use format was instrumental to having districts implement the guidelines. Recommendations: Create statewide policy to ensure that all schools use safer cleaning products and methods. Continue to support schools to transition to asthma-safer cleaning.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Chronic disease management and prevention
Environmental health sciences
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain how cleaning products can cause or worsen asthma in schools 2. Identify three strategies to engage school districts to implement a cleaning for asthma-safe schools project 3. Describe successful efforts to solicit feedback on written guidelines 4. Name approaches to distribute the guidelines to school districts throughout California

Keywords: Asthma, Occupational Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I received my MPH from UNC Chapel Hill in Health Behavior and Health Education in 1997. I have over ten years of work experience in the field of asthma. I 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. I have presented locally and disseminated evidence on child health issues.
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.