State WHE Advocacy

State: Pennsylvania

Green Cleaning
in Schools

Schools should be healthy, productive learning environments for students, teachers, and administrators, but many schools in the U.S. still use conventional cleaning products that pollute the air and have negative impacts on students’ health. Many traditional cleaning products contain substances such as fragrance, phthalates, triclosan and thousands of other chemicals, many of which have not been tested for their safety because of outdated industry standards. Of these substances tested, several common substances, including those listed above, are known carcinogens, hormone disruptors or allergens. These substances should not be permitted in environments where children spend so much of their time. Long term health effects aside, use of these substances in schools has immediate health impacts affecting quality of life and education, such as asthma triggers, allergies, headaches and fatigue. Green cleaning products  are less harmful to public health and the environment, yet are still effective cleaning agents, to combat this public health issue.

Joint State Lead Exposure Risks and Responses in Pennsylvania

This report contains recommendations to ensure the environment children live and play in is safe from lead. Recommendations include the creation of a program to certify residential rental properties as lead-free or lead safe, creation of a statewide registry of lead-free or lead safe rental housing, universal blood level testing for children and inspection and certification of facilities who serve children, including daycares and schools. Additionally, recommendations are included to provide for public education about the dangers of lead plumbing fixtures.

PA PFAS Action Team Initial Report 2019

Through collaboration and strategic planning, Action Team members identified actions their respective agencies accomplished and plan to complete in the future. Certain actions may be hindered or delayed
due to known or perceived barriers, which are explained in this report. Also included are the actions each agency has taken to advance the mission of the EO, the actions they plan to take, and their recommendations to overcome known barriers that impede action. 


The Fragrance-Free Initiative

Think about the personal products you use every morning: your soap, shaving cream, shampoo, moisturizer, makeup, deodorant, gels, mousse, hairspray, cologne or body spray. All of them have a secret ingredient that might be affecting your health—and you haven’t even left the house!
The secret ingredient is known as “fragrance” or “parfum,” and it’s added to practically every product we use on a daily basis. A single product may have hundreds of chemicals in its fragrance—there are more than 3,000 different chemicals used in common fragrances—and the majority of them have not been tested for safety.

Because of the proliferation of synthetic fragrance in the products we use, many people have become sensitive to fragrance. Yet manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals that make up fragrance because the fragrance is protected by federal regulations as a trade secret.

The Fragrance-Free Initiative is an effort to improve the indoor air quality in all the places people live, work, play and learn. By creating awareness of fragrances and educating people on the health effects and risks that may be associated with fragrances, we hope to create consumers who are better able to make a decision about the products they use in order to limit their exposure to chemicals, whether they are sensitive to fragrance or not.

The law that guides our personal care products was passed over 75 years ago and gives FDA little regulatory authority. However, you can make a difference to better protect our health, our community, and our planet! In March the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act was introduced in Congress. This Act would require companies to fully disclose of ingredients, including Fragrance, on product labels and prohibit ingredients known to be carcinogens or pose a toxic threat to reproductive development. Let your Congressman know this Act is important to better protect families and the environment! 

Fragrance-Free at School

More than 53 million children and 6 million adults in the United States spend significant amounts of time in more than 120,000 school buildings across the country. School buildings can contain harmful contaminants and chemicals that impede learning and overall health. 

Indoor air quality problems can exacerbate existing respiratory issues in children and adults. Studies have shown that certain cleaning products used in the school setting, such as industrial-strength cleaning products and room deodorizers, contain chemicals identified as potential asthmagens (triggers of asthma symptoms), allergens, carinogens and air contaminants. In fact, approximately 25 percent of chemicals in school cleaning products are considered toxic and contribute to poor indoor air quality.

Schools are becoming increasingly aware that healthy and environmentally-friendly facilities foster academic achievement and staff well-being. As states have begun to enact air-quality policies, many more eco-friendly products have become available for school use. To date, twelve states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to advance green cleaning in schools and more eco-friendly products have become available for school use.

Fragrance-Free Resources

Contact WHE staff at 412.420.2290 to schedule a presentation for faculty, parents and/or students.

"I hope we will all take action to ensure that future policy aligns with our values by electing environmental champions to public office and holding them accountable,"

Caren Glotfelty
Allegheny County Parks Foundation