The Use of Third-Party Review to Reduce Health and Environmental Hazards from Surfactants and Cleaning Products in the Janitorial Industry

Article excerpt


Demand for environmentally preferable products is greater than ever before. Pressures from environmental groups, the business community, consumers, and industry are encouraging organizations to use less toxic alternatives to promote a more sustainable environment. One area that NSF International (NSF) has become involved in is Institutional and Industrial (I&I) cleaners. With the collaboration of the GreenBlue Institute (GreenBlue) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA's) Design for the Environment (DfE), two programs were launched for NSF to conduct third-party reviews of surfactant ingredients and final cleaning products. Many stakeholders participated in creating this process.

Larry Brown and Emmanuel Rivera of the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program (LHWMP) in King County, Washington, are conducting a project on the janitorial industry's exposure to toxic cleaning products. People in this industry are at risk for chemical ingredient exposure. This report summarizes research of the NSF partnership with GreenBlue, CleanGredients, and U.S. EPA to perform third-party reviews of cleaning product ingredients and its relevance to LHWMP's interest in reducing risks to workers in the janitorial industry.

Stakeholders and Sponsors Involved in Review Program

DfE, created by U.S. EPA, is the umbrella group for the surfactant and formulator review and provided initial funding for the review programs. This umbrella group is comprised of multiple stakeholders from government, environmental organizations, industry associations, cleaning product formulators and distributors, and chemical manufacturers and suppliers (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [U.S. EPA], 2007c). All of these stakeholders are working towards making their I&I cleaning products less toxic to humans and less harmful to the environment.

U.S. EPA's DfE Green Formulator Program was started by the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. They provide chemical knowledge, information resources, and assistance on Green Chemistry. Green Chemistry is a technology that promotes reduction or elimination of hazardous substances through design, manufacture, or use of chemicals in products (U.S. EPA, 2007b). The program gathers information on chemicals and recognizes manufacturers who have produced less harmful products.

GreenBlue is a nonprofit organization that encourages industry to develop new and practical solutions to foster a more sustainable environment. DfE and GreenBlue created the Green Formulation Initiative and managed the steering and technical advisory committee (L. Heine, personal communication, August 1, 2007). Working with U.S. EPA, GreenBlue has designed and hosts the CleanGredients Web site.

The DfE Green Formulator Program became involved because it believes it can reach a wider audience by encouraging the industry to use CleanGredients and that this approach can effectively promote the use of safer chemicals in cleaning products (L. Heine, personal communication, August 1, 2007).

The CleanGredients database is a "one stop shop for green formulation (T. McGrath, personal communication, June 25, 2007)." It was created by over 500 stakeholders and is a subscriber-provided database of cleaning product ingredients (L. Heine, personal communication, August 1, 2007). The database allows the cleaning product industry to choose less toxic ingredients that benefit and achieve environmental and human health goals of this project (NSF, 2007b; U.S. EPA, 2007c).

NSF will be performing third-party reviews for both the surfactant and formulator programs of the data submitted by the companies. NSF is a nonprofit organization of scientists, engineers, technicians, educators, and analysts. The organization provides testing, certification, and audits for more than 130,000 products in 82 countries (NSF, 2007a). The organization's objective is to provide timely, objective, high quality certification services. …