Everyone wants to live in a clean building—that's a given. Back in the day, a bucket, mop and a bottle of bleach or ammonia were pretty much all that a superintendent needed when it came to cleaning entry halls, stairwells and other residential common areas. These days however, harsh chemicals and noxious fumes are frowned upon for a variety of reasons—and their place has been taken by an array of more eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning supplies.
According to the American Lung Association, many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes and the throat, or cause headaches or other health problems. Some products, such as aerosol spray products, air fresheners, chlorine bleach, rug and upholstery cleaners, furniture and floor polish and so forth release dangerous chemicals, including what’s called volatile organic compounds or VOCs. These VOCs contribute to respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches.
“There are risks related to using conventional cleaning products,” says Richard Saltzman, executive vice president at Crown Janitorial Products in Yonkers. “If a building is using ammonia-based products they can be a trigger for a variety of health issues. Number one is asthma attacks. Staff members may just be doing their job, using an ammonia-based glass cleaner. They say hi to Mrs. Jones and her son and think nothing of it—then find out later that her son had an asthma attack because he walked through the mist of the cleaner.”
Keeping residents like Mrs. Jones and her son healthy is a primary reason why Aniello DeGuida, building superintendent at The Cocoa Exchange at 1 Wall Street, says that he uses green cleaning products. “Our building is getting a lot of children too,” says DeGuida. “Overall, we want our building to be safer to all of our residents so we use non-allergenic cleaning supplies.”
In addition to the health and well-being of all the residents, converting to greener cleaning products is a positive move for the building staff as well. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an estimated 11 million workers in a wide range of industries and occupations are exposed to at least one of the numerous agents known to be associated with occupational asthma.