Hidden Dangers Associated With Triclosan

hand soapAs friends and family members suffer with cold and flu-like symptoms this spring, you might be tempted to reach for an extra handful of antibacterial soap.

But some scientists are growing increasingly concerned that a common antibacterial ingredient, known as triclosan, may actually do more harm than good for consumers.

So, Is Triclosan Safe?

The jury is still out.

Currently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are studying the chemical’s potential danger to humans, animals and the environment.

However, several independent research studies have linked the chemical to a range of adverse health effects. Some researchers also believe that excessive exposure to triclosan may disrupt the body’s natural hormone production, interfere with muscle function and encourage the growth of even stronger bacteria.

Others worry that its buildup in the environment may pose serious consequences for wildlife ecosystems.

Minnesota First State Agency to Ban Triclosan

After Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton demanded state agencies reduce their environmental impact, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that the state will cease the purchase of all products containing triclosan beginning in June 2013.

Banning triclosan (which has been found in increasing amounts in the sediment of Minnesota lakes and rivers) is one of many environmentally friendly initiatives planned for the state. But so far, there is no pending state legislation eliminate triclosan from consumer products such as hand soap, cleaning supplies or tooth paste.

Should You Avoid Triclosan?

It’s hard to say. Currently, there’s little hard evidence suggesting that washing your hands with triclosan or other antibacterial ingredients offers health advantages over plain soap and water.

So if you’re concerned about your long-term health, you might want to reduce your exposure — just in case.

Image Credit: Flickr

Commercial Cleaning Linked to Increased Risk of Asthma

asthmaProfessional cleaners have an increased risk of developing asthma. Though this may not be news to the commercial cleaning industry, longitudinal research has finally confirmed it.

Asthma, a chronic lung disease, is characterized by recurring periods of chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Though asthma can affect both children and adults alike, it is more frequently experienced during childhood. Adult onset asthma is typically related to environmental factors.

Study Design and Results

The study, published last month’s issue of Thorax – a leading respiratory medicine journal, followed roughly 9,500 UK natives born in 1958. Not including those with childhood onset, 9 percent of participants developed asthma by the time they turned 42.

Risks in the workplace were found to be responsible for one in six instances, which was surprisingly more than the one in nine cases attributed to chronic smoking.

According lead researcher Dr. Rebecca Ghosh of the MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, 18 occupations were clearly linked with an increased risk of asthma – and four of which were in the professional cleaning industry (and subsequently exposed to commercial cleaning products on a regular basis).

In addition to cleaning products, “flour, enzymes, metals, and textiles were among materials in the workplace identified in the study as being linked to asthma risk.”

The results of this study confirm that more must be done on behalf of employers to protect the long-term health of their employees.

“Occupational asthma is widely under-recognized by employers, employees and healthcare professionals,” said Ghosh. “Raising awareness that this is an almost entirely preventable disease would be a major step in reducing its incidence.”

Commercial Green Cleaning Products and Employee Health

Though the results of this study are certainly eye-opening, researchers agree that more study is needed to investigate the long-term health effects of green cleaning products.

“While the study did not note whether [the cleaning workers in the study] were using green or traditional cleaning products, we have known for more than two decades that exposure to cleaning chemicals on a regular basis can be a health hazard. This study now confirms this.”

Image Credit: Flickr

Social Media: Latest Flu Prevention Tool

sick office worker
No doubt, this year’s flu season has been one of the worst we’ve seen in years — but feeling under the weather hasn’t prevented many of us from logging into Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

In fact, we visit them just as frequently, or more so — according to the results of a new survey.

The nationwide survey, which was sponsored by Clorox Co. and conducted by Ipsos, received responses from nearly 1,000 men and women aged 18-29.

What they found was that 83 percent of people admitted to using social media as a source of entertainment when they were feeling sick, while a little over 9 percent said they used it to gain sympathy from friends online.

Enhanced Flu Prevention Behaviors

The survey also found that those who saw posts related to the flu were more motivated to step up their flu prevention behaviors.

Nearly 65 percent said they washed their hands more frequently after hearing of a friend or family member’s illness via social media, while 55 percent said they were more likely to use disinfectant on germ hotspots.

Cleaning and Hygiene for Flu Prevention

Fortunately flu season is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down quite yet. Remember to follow these important cleaning and hygiene tips.

  • Wash your hands often with foaming hand soap and hot water
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that may be contaminated with flu germs
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tisue when you cover or sneeze and toss it in the trash
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth
  • If you do get sick, avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours

Image Credit: Flickr

Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Office

office spring cleaning
Maybe we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves (it’s still February after all), but we’re gearing up for some serious spring cleaning around the office.

In our opinion, a clean office is just as important as a clean home. If you sat down and actually calculated the number of hours you and your employees spend annually in the office, you’d probably be inclined to agree with us.

Additionally, numerous research studies have shown that a clean, organized office environment means a healthier, more productive workforce. To kick start your office spring cleaning, we thought we’d share some of our favorite tips below:

Encourage and promote healthy habits around the office.

According the 2012 study, 47 percent of working adults eat lunch at their desk on a daily basis. Though this might sound harmless, it’s not. Most workstations carry as much as 400 times more dangerous bacteria than the average public toilet seat. Not a very pleasant visual, we know.

There are several ways to minimize the risk of harmful bacteria:

  • Promote employee hand washing by keeping your restroom fully stocked with the right supplies (e.g., paper towels, foaming hand soap). A sign designed to remind employees to wash up can also be beneficial.
  • Make sure there are sanitizing/hygienic wipes available for employees to use throughout the office.
  • High touch points such as door knobs, light switches and bathroom surfaces should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent the spread of bacteria. The same goes for communal areas such as fridges, microwaves, ovens and other shared equipment.

Be careful when cleaning up computer workstations.

Computer workstations are used for hours a day –which means they’re likely to collect a lot of dirt and dust. Unfortunately, they can be trickier to clean than most surfaces – and using the wrong methods can result in significant damage.

  • Use compressed air to remove dust from computer keyboards and CPU towers.
  • Clean monitors with wipes approved for use on LCD screens to avoid scratching screens.
  • Remember to dust each computer mouse and set of speakers before moving on to the next workstation.

Remove dirt and grime from your office space carpet.

A cold, snowy winter followed by damp spring showers can bring water, dirt and residue into your facility. Improve the look of your office and protect your carpet investment by initiating a carpet maintenance program.

  • A professional deep clean is the best first step, followed by regular vacuuming and spot removal. A successful maintenance program can extend the life of your carpet by three or more years.
  • Strategic matting is also a good way to prevent dirt and grime from entering the office. And the spring season may just be the perfect time to upgrade your current system.

Don’t be so literal. “Spring cleaning” can also pertain to your technology.

Your computer probably has its own version of dusty shelves and leaky faucets that could use some attention, both inside and out.

  • Back up all of your important files (e.g., documents, photos, videos, web bookmarks, emails, and so on). There are a number of cloud services that will store this information for free (Google Drive, Dropbox, Skyline and others).
  • Update your infrastructure – this means removing unused applications and programs. It’ll clear up your hard drive, and possibly your icons from your desktop – which means you’ll actually be able to see your wallpaper again.
  • Download the most recent software updates for your operating system. It might also be a good idea to do this for your favorite programs as well.

Image Credit: Flickr

 

Flu Prevention: Hand Sanitizer vs. Hand Soap

In the midst of one of the worst flu epidemics in over a decade, many of us are still confused about the difference between hand sanitizers and hand soap. We know they serve as our first line of defense against disease, but which one works best?

Dr. Richard Besser, Chief Medical Editor for ABC News, along with six graduate students decided to put this question to the test in the University of Maryland’s Food Safety Lab.

To test to effectiveness of both hand sanitizer and hand soap, researchers coated their hands with a liquid form of E. coli bacteria (a harmless strain). Then they proceeded to conduct four different trials with the following:

In between each trial, researchers pressed their hands onto petri dishes and then placed the dishes in an incubator to allow the bacteria to grow for two days.

So what did researchers find?

Non-Alcohol vs. Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

When comparing non-alcohol and alcohol-based hand sanitizers side-by-side, it was clear that alcohol-based sanitizers were dramatically more effective than their neutral counterparts.

Alcohol-based sanitizers work by stripping away the outer layer of oil on the skin – breaking up and killing bacterial proteins. Unfortunately, many individuals do not tolerate alcohol-based products very well and end up with irritated skin.

Regular vs. Antibacterial Hand Soap

According to the results, both regular and antibacterial hand soap were equally effective – and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says they work about the same when it comes to disease prevention.

Hand Sanitizer vs. Hand Soap

Though hand sanitizer might seem like a quick alternative to getting your hands wet, regular old hand washing is still the best way to prevent illnesses like the flu. However – it’s important to note that how you use hand soap (and hand sanitizer) is crucial to its overall effectiveness.

Hand Soap and Hand Sanitizer Best Practices

Hand washing statistics have shown that theaverage person only spend a measly five seconds lathering up at the sink. Study researchers looked at this factor and found that after five seconds of hand washing, bacteria rates were virtually the same before and after.

If you really want to stave off illness, you need to wash your hands for a full 20 seconds (the equivalent of singing “Happy Birthday” twice).

Washing with hand soap is always your best option, but when you’re in a pinch, hand sanitizers are better than nothing. Just make sure you choose a sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol-based and you allow it to dry for at least 15 seconds before resuming normal activities.

Special Signs May Encourage Better Hand Washing Practices

hand-soapAs U.S. officials declare flu emergencies across the country, hand washing hygiene is more important than ever. But if you saw our previous post on hand washing rates, then you know many Americans aren’t doing their part to stop the spread of influenza.

So what can we do to encourage better hand washing practices?

According to a new study – all we need is more relevant signage.

The Study

The study, which surveyed 252 college-men, posted signs in campus bathrooms that read, “4 out of 5 Males Wash Their Hands,” alongside pictures of students in University apparel and a guide to proper hand washing.

As men exited the bathroom, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire pertaining to the sign they’d just seen and whether or not they’d followed suit.

Of the men who saw the signs, 86 percent reported washing their hands. When compared to a baseline study conducted in advance of placing signs, there was a nearly 11 percent increase in hand washing rates (from 75 percent).

So what’s next?

Other factors such as whether or not participants were in the bathroom alone or in the presence of others may have affected their hand washing behavior, so more more research is definitely needed to confirm the effectiveness of these signs — especially in the hospitality and healthcare industry. However, lead researcher Maria Lapinski still feels the results have important implications.

“It is important from a public health standpoint, because quality hand-washing can prevent transmission of many diseases, and we have good evidence that people typically don’t do it as often or as well as they should.”

Other studies on the subject have shown that good restroom hygiene, as well as the availability of foaming hand soap and hand dryers have also been shown to increase hand washing rates in public restrooms.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How-To: Sustainable Cleaning in the Workplace

green cleaning
Increased efficiency, reduced costs and brand enhancement are just a few benefits associated with going green. Unfortunately many small business owners fail to recognize that adopting a culture of sustainability begins with the cleaning process.

Sustainable cleaning in the workplace is an easy starting point for small companies that wish to reduce their carbon footprint without spending an excess of time or money. It’s a simple, cost-effective initiative that your company can implement right away.

So where do you start?

Cleaning Products

Most commercial cleaning products contain a brew of toxic chemicals that are harmful to both the environment and the health of your employees. Inversely, environmentally-friendly cleaning products contain fewer pollutants and subsequently clean more safely. They also require less packaging than traditional commercial cleaning products. When hiring a commercial cleaning company, make sure they specialize in certified green cleaning products and practices.

Daytime Cleaning

Traditionally most businesses have hired contract cleaners to address building sanitation and cleaning duties during off-peak hours. These days however, more and more companies are shifting towards a new daytime cleaning policy because it reduces both energy consumption and light pollution. If you can manage to implement a daytime cleaning program, your company will be considerably more sustainable and cost-efficient.

Waste Management

Every business creates waste, but many fail to realize that much of this waste is recyclable. Establishing a recycling program is the best way to make sure reusable materials aren’t ending up in landfills. A good recycling program requires effort from everyone on the team to be effective. If your business only generates a small amount of recyclables, you may want to consider partnering with neighboring businesses so that you can qualify for pick-up by a commercial recycler or waste hauler.

Struggling Restaurant Owner Makes Shift to Successful Restaurant Cleaning Business

restaurant cleaning
If you’re a small business owner in today’s gloomy economic climate, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have your own niche. Just ask Taylor Smith – a restaurant owner turned restaurant cleaner.

With years of restaurant experience under his belt, Smith knew the industry inside-out when he left in 2012 to pursue his own cleaning company.

Carving Out a Niche in Restaurant Cleaning

His company CJS Global, which focuses on in-depth restaurant cleaning, offers more than your average janitorial services company. They use green commercial cleaning products to service not only the dining and restroom areas, but also the commercial kitchen equipment as well.

If you’re in the cleaning business, you know that cleaning commercial kitchen equipment is a far cry from tackling a traditional office building. And unfortunately, most restaurant owners still lean on cooking and wait staff to do most of the heavy cleaning.

Not surprisingly, Smith’s specialized services, reliance on green commercial cleaning products and eye for detail have served him well. His team of 150 employees do it all – from oven cleaners to fryer degreasers.

Shaping Passion and Resilience into a Profitable Business

In the past year, he’s secured the business of more than 100 hospitality clients in the South Florida are. In fact, business has been so successful that Smith intends to expand his services to Los Angeles within the year.

So what’s his secret to success? He simply doesn’t accept failure – even during tough times.

“No matter how much I lose, I know I can make it and wake up and it’s a fresh day.”

If you’re thinking about starting up your own business, or maybe you’re feeling a little disillusioned after a previous loss, Smith has a few words of encouragement to pass along:

“You always have to believe in yourself. If you do, you can get anywhere. It’s worked for me.”

Image Credit: Flickr

Cleaner Work Spaces Mean Less Sick Days

sick dayIf you work in an office, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve touched a doorknob, a keyboard, a copier and a whole slew of other germ hotspots today. And depending on how clean they were, you could be passing on harmful bacteria to your co-workers and family.

According to Stephen Collins, founder of a 35-year full-service cleaning service in Massachusetts, employee health is closely related to the cleanliness of their work environment – especially during cold winter months.

“Commercial buildings are buttoned up tight in the winter, but reduced fresh air flow along and the arrival of the cold and flu season means workplaces are an ideal place for the growth and spread of germs – and a dramatic jump in sick days. Besides a person’s health, cleanliness of the work environment has a direct effect on employees’ health, mood, productivity and attendance.”

Laboratory studies have shown that cold and flu germs can remain on surfaces for 48 hours or longer – especially on surfaces like stainless steel, plastic and similarly hard surfaces. Other factors such as temperature and humidity can have an effect of the life cycle of germs outside of the body.

If the conditions below sound like your office, then it’s time to clean up your act:

  • Employees work long hours in close proximity to their co-workers
  • Employees regularly eat meals in their work space
  • Employees sneeze, cough or yawn without covering their mouth
  • Employees don’t wash their hands after using the restroom

So what’s the best way to keep your employees healthy?

Though you can’t always control employee behavior, you can ensure a clean work space. Regularly cleaning and regularly sanitizing commonly touched or handled surfaces around the office are two of the best ways to keep your employees healthy.

Encouraging hand washing with hand soap is also an important way to prevent the spread of infection. Hands should be washed frequently with soap or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (though hand soap is always preferable).

 

Reduce Chemical Cleaners and Increase Building Safety with Strategic Matting

building matsEntryway mats do more than just cover your floors. They absorb dirt and liquids as people enter and walk through your facility. This process not only keeps your floors clean, it reduces the risk of slip-and-fall injuries and decreases maintenance costs in the long run.

Think about all of the money you’re facility spends annually on chemical cleaners, mops, brooms, machines and labor. If you want to protect these investments, you’ve got to think strategically about floor matting.

We realize the idea of thinking ‘strategically about floor matting’ might sound silly at first, but check out the stats below:

  • When high traffic areas are left untouched, a square foot of carpet can easily accumulate one-pound of dirt per week (twice that in inclement weather).
  • ISSA estimates that the total cost of finding and removing one-pound of dirt will cost your payroll $600 on average.
  • According to the Institute of Industrial Launderers, 70-80% of dirt and grime is tracked indoors from the feet of individuals entering the building.
  • Without proper matting, the risk of falls and injury are significantly increased.
  • Nearly one-third of workman’s compensation claims related to slip-and-fall injuries – with the average cost exceeding $4,000.

Matting Location is Key

The first step to an effective matting strategy is proper placement. You need mats in the following areas:

  • All entrance areas
  • High spillage areas (e.g., near the coffee maker)
  • High traffic areas (e.g., elevators and hallways)
  • Reception and workstation areas

Determining the Best Type of Mat

Not all mats are created equal. There are several different categories – each serving a very different purpose:

  • Scrapers – These mats are designed to aggressively scrape grime and soil from the bottom of shoes. They belong outside of your facility.
  • Wipers – These mats absorb moisture and soil from the bottom of shoes. They should be placed inside of your facility before walkers reach the actual floor.
  • Wiper/Scrapers – These intermediate mats should be placed after a traditional scraper mat, but before a wiper mat (usually within a door entryway).
  • Ergonomic – These mats increase bounce, comfort and support. They’re intended to reduce worker fatigue and are ideal for internal, high traffic areas like hallways.

Though it’s a simple concept, matting is a frequently overlooked building cleaning and maintenance strategy. Implementing an effective tactic is a sure-fire way increase your facility’s bottom line.

Stay tuned for more cost-saving commercial cleaning and maintenance tips from the National Purity blog.