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School goes for the green clean

Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School has gone green with its cleaning supplies. The St. Petersburg school that serves students from preschool through Grade 8 began using environmentally friendly, nontoxic cleaners this fall.

School director Holly Carlson said the products are comparable in cost to what they previously used, work just as well and come without obnoxious fumes.

"I have a couple of staff members who are quite allergic, so for them it was really a positive move," Carlson said.

The school is ahead of the pack in Florida, but not the nation. In New York, an October 2005 law required that public schools start using "environmentally sensitive" cleaning supplies this fall. Officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said there is not any similar legislation pending in Florida.

Carlson said the well-being of her students was her main concern in making the switch. "We always want to do things for the kids that are safe. We work so hard to take care of these children and keep them in an environment that's good for them," Carlson said.

The product line is called Greening the Cleaning and it was created for the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at Hackensack (N.J) University Medical Center. Proceeds go to the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. The nonprofit organization was created by radio personality Don Imus and his wife, Deirdre, to give children with cancer the chance to spend time on a working ranch. Greening the Cleaning was created to eliminate toxic cleaning supplies, particularly in places frequented by children.

"It was developed for use in a children's oncology ward. The whole idea was to make products that are safe to use around children, so to them it was just a natural to market these products to anywhere that serves children," said Bob Carr, who sells the products.

Carr, 41, who owns Skyway Supply in Clearwater, approached Carlson at LCC because he has two children at the school. In recent months, the retired stock trader has also sold the products to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and A Child's Place preschool in St. Petersburg. Links between the chemicals in household cleaners and children's diseases, including cancer and asthma, have not been made. But studies have shown that some cleaners contain volatile organic compounds, gaseous emissions that may cause short- or long-term adverse health effects. On its Web site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists household cleaners as sources of VOCs, as well as paints, paint strippers, solvents, aerosol sprays and air fresheners.

Parent Alicia Mosher said she liked the products so much she has bought some for her home and plans to order more for her husband's chiropractic office.

She said she has noticed an improvement with her allergies. "Ever since we've been using the product, I haven't been sniffling in the morning and coughing," Mosher said.

Carr said the logic behind using nontoxic, odor-free cleaning supplies seems to be catching on. "Some people just get it. If you can get the same job done and not introduce toxic chemicals into the environment, why not?"

QUICK FACTS

By the numbers

90 percent - about how much time people spend indoors, where pollutant levels may be two to five times (and occasionally more than 100 times) higher than outdoor levels.

6.2-million - the number of children younger than 18 affected by asthma, making it the most common chronic disorder in childhood.

14-million - the number of lost school days attributed to asthma in 2004 .

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, American Lung Association.

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