Don Imus’s radio program, Imus in the Morning, aired on 660 AM, is objectionable in too many ways to count. There are the homophobic, racial, and ethnic remarks. There is the unremittingly coarse language. There are the insulting characterizations of the show’s guests. It’s embarrassing to listen to, really. The man hasn’t been a teen-ager in five decades. How can he and his raunchy cohorts find this stuff funny?
Then, in the midst of the rants, something strange pops up. It seems that Imus, propelled by his wife, Dierdre, is passionate about green cleaning products. The couple are convinced that the chemicals in the cleansers that have long been staples in every home, school, and hospital ward are killers.
Are the Imuses for real? Have they latched onto a real issue? “Yes” and “yes,” says Priscilla Hayes, executive director of the Solid Waste Resource Renewal Group at Rutgers, who has even had an Imus representative address a green cleaning meeting.
Hayes is organizing a green cleaning event on Thursday, July 13, at 10 a.m. at the graduate student lounge at the Rutgers College Student Center at 126 College Avenue in New Brunswick. The event is free, but reservations are required. Make them by E-mailing Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“One of the things I’m trying to do is put together a networking group of people who have green cleaning studies,” she says. A newly urgent concern, green cleaning involves using bio-based products whenever possible to reduce the health hazards associated with the toxins in standard cleaning products.
As awareness of the dangers spread, hospitals, schools, and companies are trying to cut their employees and clients’ exposure. Studies have been done, and products have been analyzed, but Hayes says there is no easy way to access these studies. This meeting is an attempt to collect case studies and to share them with institutions that are just beginning to green-up their cleaning practices.
Among the presenters at this meeting is Dave DeHart. He is Rutgers’ warehouse manager, and he was chosen to head up a university committee charged with finding the best green cleaning products on the market. Hayes, not a woman given to gushing, positively raves about the thoroughness with which DeHart led the committee. “There is no one in the country who has done a better job than he has,” she says. “He has an incredible system of criteria.”
DeHart, told of Hayes’ praise, wants to be clear that he isn’t a scientist. A graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson (Class of 1989), he holds a master’s degree in education from Rutgers. He has been with Rutgers for 15 years.
“I was just chosen to head the committee,” he says. He took the work seriously, striving over nine months to determine just what green cleaning manufacturers are out there, and devising ways to compare them.
“You have to understand,” he says, “Rutgers is really a small city. We have 50,000 students and 12,000 employees.” The health of any of these people could be adversely affected by cleaning products, he is convinced.
Rates of respiratory diseases of all kinds, including childhood asthma, are way up because of toxic chemicals, he says. Millions of work days are lost, and there are even links between cleaning products and cancer. “A cleaning person gets cancer. You can’t make a direct link to the cleaning products,” he says. “Maybe her parents smoked when she was a child. But it doesn’t take a leap of faith to make a connection (to the cleaning products).”
While green cleaning has been a concern since the 1980s, it is moving to the forefront now. Rutgers, for example, just completed its study and is about to make a switch to green cleaning. In addition to the university’s concern for its students and employees, it wants to minimize harm to the environment, says DeHart.
This is how his committee went about the work of deciding on a green cleaning vendor:
Green Seal certification. Green Seal, a private non-profit with a website at www.greenseal.com, uses “science-based environmental certification standards” to help companies locate safe cleaning products. DeHart used this certification as a starting point in identifying the seven companies his committee looked at as possible vendors.
Hayes says that Green Seal does set the standard in screening green cleaning companies, but adds that not all small companies are included in its approved lists despite the fact that their products may be environmentally sound.
Health rating. Cleaning products are made up of bio ingredients, including coconut oil and citrus oil, and/or petroleum products, some of which are more volatile than others. DeHart’s committee looked at ingredient lists and did extensive chemical analysis.
Dispensing systems. Directions on a cleaning product might indicate that two ounces are to be used for each gallon of water. “Does the custodian pour exactly two ounces?” asks DeHart. “Does he use exactly one gallon of water? Does he measure every time? I doubt it.”
This being the case, he says that it is vital that cleaning products take the guess work away by coming with dispensers that ensure that each bucket is filled with just enough cleaning product.
Training. One reason that Rutgers chose Rochester-Midland, a company based in Rochester, New York, as its vendor is that the company provides thorough training.
Green cleaning products work just as well as petroleum-based products, says DeHart, but they work differently. “Chemical products are more aggressive,” he says. “They clean more quickly.” This means that custodians might have to apply a green disinfectant and let it sit, perhaps emptying the garbage in the meantime, while the green product does its work.
Green cleaning is effective, and it doesn’t cost any more than standard cleaning, says DeHart.
Or, as a fan of Imus’ patented Greening the Cleaning products wrote in a letter posted on his website (www.imusranchfoods.com), “The Glass Cleaner and the All Purpose Cleaner are both GREAT! They clean better than anything I have ever used. And they won’t kill my husband, nor me nor our little Sheltie dogs.