SAN FRANCISCO — Five San Francisco companies have successfully completed the first green business program in the county with training focused on custodial worker health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment) honored the five companies last month for finishing a pilot program that aims to reduce workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals typically used in cleaning operations. A $74,500 EPA pollution prevention grant funded the program.
During the pilot program, SF Environment found that nearly half of the chemicals the companies were using were harmful. The companies then switched to greener cleaning products and methods, which can help prevent health problems associated with the use of harmful cleaning products.
The companies involved in the pilot program include Metro Maintenance; CMSC Janitorial/Maintenance Services; Aim to Please Janitorial Service Inc.; Japan Janitorial Service; and Signature Home Cleaning. They are now considered San Francisco Green Businesses for their achievement.
“Using toxic cleaners can make custodial workers much more likely to suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a statement. “Green Cleaning companies protect their employees from harmful chemicals and make our work environments safer, while growing their businesses in a competitive marketplace.”
In addition to respiratory illnesses, the EPA said other health problems can result from using harmful cleaning products, including eye and skin irritations, burns and toxic exposure through inhalation of chemical fumes.
Roughly 300 custodians have been trained under the Green Cleaning program, eliminating the use of more than 12,000 gallons of harmful cleaning chemicals each year.
“These five companies collectively represent more than 4.5 million square feet of property in San Francisco that is now being cleaned using safer and more environmentally friendly cleaning methods,” said Debbie Raphael, director of SF Environment, in a statement. “With over two million people working with cleaning products across the nation, there is great opportunity for us to protect the health of vulnerable populations by helping other cities replicate this model.”
Through the program, SF Environment has developed certification criteria and multi-lingual training materials, including videos, fact sheets, booklets and other educational materials. The department also provided consultation to custodial companies on green-cleaning practices and safer products.
EPA pollution prevention grants fund environmental projects that reduce or eliminate pollution at the source, encouraging toxic and hazardous materials reduction, efficient business practices and pollution prevention integration activities. Eligible applicants include states, governments, tribes and nonprofit organizations.