At the recent Healthy Indoor Environments (HIE) 2002 Conference, Ashkins gave some statistics that supported his reasons for maintaining clean buildings: 4.8 million children suffer from asthma; cancer is the No. 1 related cause of death in children each year (8,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year); and some cases of autism and learning disabilities (including hyperactivity) are attributed to poor IAQ.
“There are productivity losses at work, up to 30% more errors, over 7% worker slowdown,” Ashkins added. “Billions are spent each year on productivity and health costs.”
Ashkins said that the mere presence of dust should be taken seriously by building owners and managers. “Dust is a living, vibrant source of contamination,” he said. “We need to convince building occupants that dust is not an appearance issue; it is a health issue.
“Cleaning is a means of extracting contaminants, not a way to make things look nice,” he continued. “But cleaning is also a source of contamination.”
Ashkins said that 5 billion lbs of chemicals are used a year to clean buildings. An additional 4.5 billion lb of paper are used. He noted that some of the paper contains bleach, a dioxin.
“Cleaning should be a low-cost health-intervention strategy,” he said. “We are trying to introduce ‘green cleaning,’ which are cleaning products which will not harm the environment.”
Ashkins also quoted commercial-institutional cleaning tips from ASTME 1971-58, including utilizing a written maintenance plan, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, and practicing integrated pest management.
“If you change the habitat, bugs will not want to come back,” he said.
Publication date: 06/03/2002