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Cleaners: Handy Facts

 These quick statistics excerpted from the Guide offer a snapshot of the issues.



  • Each year, the institutional cleaning industry contributes $150 billion to the
    economy and uses five billion pounds of chemicals, many of which are known
    hazards to human health and the environment (Case, 2003).

  • One pound of phosphorous can grow nearly 700 pounds of algae (DOE 2008).

  • Nearly one in three workers claims to possess allergies that are aggravated by
    environmental conditions in their offices (CE 2007).

  • According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded project, the
    ingredients found in one in three commercial cleaning products are potentially
    harmful (JPPP).

  • In a May 2002 national study of stream water contaminants, the U.S. Geological
    Survey found persistent detergent metabolites in 69% of streams tested (NG

  • The four million janitors who keep North America’s buildings clean also
    experience unnecessarily high injury rates with some experts estimating that 6
    out of every 100 are injured by the chemicals they use (Culver, 2002).

  • The Custodial Products Pollution Prevention Project estimates that the average
    janitor uses about 23 gallons of chemicals per year. Hazardous ingredients
    comprise 25% of this total (JPPP, 1999).

  • Green Seal reports that cleaning products are responsible for approximately eight
    percent of total non-vehicular emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

  • Furthermore, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) study of six
    communities nationwide found that indoor VOC levels are up to 10 times higher
    than outdoor levels. VOCs contribute to smog formation, inhibit plant growth,
    and can cause respiratory problems in certain people (EPA, 2000; EPA, 2003).

  • Switching to green cleaners helps reduce the more than $75 million a year U.S.
    institutions spend to address chemical-related custodial injuries (JPPP, 1999).
    Using safer cleaning products, in addition to better ventilation and cleaning,
    could improve worker productivity by between 0.5 percent and 5 percent, an
    annual productivity gain of $30 billion to $150 billion (Culver, 2002).

  • Santa Monica, California documented a five percent price savings after its switch
    to green cleaners (EPA, 1998; EPA, 2000).

  • The chemicals most frequently involved in poisonings reported to U.S. Poison
    Control Centers are cleaning products (EPA, 2003).
    One corporation reported that it saved 68 tons of hazardous substances annually
    by using microfiber mops and using washable mats at door exteriors (GCPPC,

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