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Daily News Archive
From November 15, 2005                                                                                                           

Environmental Group Wants to Ban Toxic Products in Schools
(Beyond Pesticides, November 15, 2005)
The Labour Environmental Alliance Society (LEAS) is calling on school districts across British Columbia to protect children by banning harmful chemicals in cleaning products and materials used in auto shops, labs and art supplies. The group is using a Student Environmental Bill of Rights to raise awareness around the need for taking action to eliminate toxins in schools. Prior to the start of this school year, a vote by the State Senate, requires schools in New York to use green cleaning products (see Daily News).

According to a report in The Brandon Sun: Online, Sean Griffin, a researcher with the LEAS, said that children’s health may suffer if they are exposed to toxic products that should be replaced with safer alternatives. Griffin went on to say, "If there is an alternative substance available by other manufacturers that's widely used, that's as effective and doesn't contain a hazard, why on earth would you use a hazardous substance?"

Institutional cleaning products are often more concentrated than those used in households and, unlike food, Health Canada has no provisions to assess their harmful ingredients. Some cleansers contain the chemical trisodium nitrilotriacetate, a known carcinogen, which has been banned in several jurisdictions in the United States, Griffin said.

Griffin told The Brandon Sun: Online that in California and the European Union, manufacturers are required to label products containing carcinogens. LEAS, is an alliance of environmental groups and trade unions, that has taken its concerns to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, whose members clean the majority of British Columbia’s. schools. According to the report, when the Canadian Union of Employees (CUPE) was notified, "they were very surprised to learn what these ingredients were."

Some school districts are no longer using products containing 2-Butoxyethanol, which has been shown by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to possibly cause cancer. Barry O'Neill, president of CUPE, said the union agrees exposure to toxins should be limited in schools for workers, students and teachers.

According to Claudia Ferris, a spokeswoman for the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council, finding out which products in schools contain toxic chemicals will be a time-consuming project that could also involve considerable cost and raised awareness among custodians, teachers, trustees and parents, Ferris said.

Dr. Warren Bell, past president of the Toronto-based Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said minimizing children's exposure to toxic chemicals is important because their organs are still developing. Bell went on to say, "What we need to do is make sure that Canadian citizens are fully aware of the dimension of the problem."

Bell noted that a new study. Pollution. It's in You, released by the group Canadian’s Environmental Defence shows that various chemicals including heavy metals such as lead, DDT and PCBs have been found in the blood of eleven Canadians from across the country. Although older participants were found to contain the highest levels of pesticides and PCBs almost all of the volunteers tested positive for stain repellents and flame-retardants found in drapery and carpets.