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“Green” and “Disinfect” – Do They Go Together?

Posted by Trent Fitzgerald on Jun 28, 2011 2:37:00 PM


green disinfectantsOne of the biggest trends in the cleaning industry over the last several years has been the move toward selecting green cleaning products, and using them in a way that reduces impact on human health and the environment.

This trend has been driven by the new reality of more affordable and effective green cleaning product options, combined with an increase in public interest in the environment and the topic of sustainability, and as a result there is a desire to find greener alternatives in all cleaning product categories.

For the most part, selecting a greener alternative in most of the cleaning product categories has been made easier for purchasers by the acceptance of third-party ecolabel certifications that help to validate claims of reduced impact on human health and the environment – and there are now several quality affordable options from which to choose.

Disinfectants, on the other hand, have proven to be a different story.

What About Disinfectants?
After all disinfectants kill things – that is their job, isn’t it – and when you stop to think about it, all the disinfectant “kill claims” are kind of at odds with some of the attributes normally associated with being “green”.  Like not killing things.

Disinfectants do play a vital role in helping to protect public health – which you may recall is one of the key goals and benefits of a green cleaning approach as stated earlier – and therefore it is generally accepted that they should play an important role in any cleaning program (green or otherwise).

But because of the interest in implementing green cleaning programs and identifying green cleaning products, there are many in the marketplace who would like to find a “green” disinfectant.

At the time of this writing, there is no definitive standard for “green” disinfectants.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) states that any product making disinfecting or sanitizing claims against living organisms on inanimate surfaces is defined as a pesticide, and must be registered with the EPA.

The EPA reviews the product label for each disinfectant to ensure compliance with labeling requirements, and at the time of this writing has not allowed any disinfectant to make any claims of environmental preferability.

In the future, a partnership between the EPA, in conjunction with the agency’s DfE program, and the Office of Pesticide Program (OPP) will conduct a pilot to explore a policy change that would allow hard-surface disinfectants and sanitizers to attain environmentally preferable claims.

In the Meantime
In the meantime, appropriate and limited use of disinfectants on an as-needed basis is a good general rule of thumb to consider when using disinfectants in a green cleaning program.  In other words, it is a good idea to focus on “touch points” as opposed to feeling the need to “disinfect the whole room”.

Since all disinfectants and sanitizers are designed to kill (they have toxic properties and are listed as pesticides) care should be taken when determining the appropriate amount of disinfectant to use and the appropriate setting in which to use it.  As always, appropriate Personal Protective Equipment should be used.

Other characteristics to consider when choosing a disinfectant or sanitizer include selecting options with lower VOC content (you can view this guidance in the LEED EBOM Green Building Rating System, and as a matter of fact, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has recently certified some disinfectants for being ultra low VOC http://www.aqmd.gov/rules/cacc/index.html), and choosing options which are packaged in concentrate to minimize packaging waste.

WAXIE offers disinfectants and sanitizers that can complement a green cleaning program. Take appropriate care when selecting and using all disinfectants. As an alternative, the Vapor Jet 2400 uses steam to clean and sanitize.

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Topics: green cleaning, environmentally preferred purchasing, sustainability, environment, green cleaning products, sustainable environment, sustainable cleaning, disinfectants, disinfectant cleaners, cleaners

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