Green Buckeye RN

Newsletter: Vol. 1, No. 2: June 2008

Green Buckeye RN Newsletter: Vol. 1, No. 2: June 2008



If you are an allergy or asthma sufferer, you have learned to stay indoors when the pollen count is up or the ozone is high. Pollution of outdoor air is a sign of the way we live, with automobiles, industry and power plants producing pollution that aggravates respiratory complaints and even leads to shortened lives. But what about staying indoors? What are the risks associated with indoor air? After all, average Americans spend about 90 percent of their lives indoors (

Volatile organic compounds or VOCs are just one of the risks associated with indoor air. VOCs are chemical compounds that enter the atmosphere by vaporization. Sometimes you smell them, sometimes you don’t. Perhaps you have gotten a headache while painting a room in your house, or have been aware of the odors associated with bleach or dry cleaning. If you are a home sewer, you may recall a time when walking into the fabric store caused your eyes to tear or burn. All are examples of coming in contact with substances that vaporize into the surrounding air. Further, the EPA estimates that indoor air pollutants are 2-5 times that of the same pollutants found in outdoor air (

Infants and toddlers are especially susceptible to volatile organic compounds as they spend even more time indoors, have smaller lungs, higher respiratory rates, and consequently take in more air than an adult. Developing respiratory and nervous systems are less able to process VOCs, as compared to older children and adults.

Recent news has centered on the issue of formaldehyde levels in the trailers provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Formaldehyde is present in many types of pressed wood and laminated furniture, older kinds of insulation, and wall coverings. Formaldehyde is also a respiratory irritant and know human carcinogen. Since Katrina, the off-gassing of various chemical compounds used in the manufacture of household goods holds a heightened level of concern for consumers and government officials…so much so that environmental groups are pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish limits on the amount of formaldehyde that may be used in the production of wood products. California has already established such limits ( EPA urged to regulate chemical in homes. March 21, 2008).

Other VOCs commonly found in homes include toluene, styrene, xylenes, and trichloroethylene. They may derive from aerosol products, paints, varnishes, solvents, glues, art supplies, cleaners, spot removers, adhesive removers, floor waxes, polishes, air fresheners, moth balls, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, carpets, upholstery fabrics, photocopying, and even some cosmetics. Most of these substances have been linked to endocrine disruption, cancers or various neurological, reproductive, and developmental abnormalities via animal studies. Many are respiratory irritants and asthma triggers.

Those ubiquitous plug-ins also contain phthalates, which are reproductive and developmental toxicants.

Even scented candles and other fragrance-containing products have been implicated as indoor air pollutants with a potential to impact human health.

So what can be done to lower the levels of VOCs in the home? In the short term, improve your home ventilation, become a wiser consumer, and advocate for safe products that do not contain materials with the propensity to off-gas nee vaporize.

To check your home ventilation, consult the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Homeowner’s Guide to Ventilation available at This publication provides some easy tips for testing your current home ventilation system and provides additional resources for making changes.

As a consumer, make your money work for you. Purchase petrochemical-free cleaning products. Look for low or no-VOC home and office products, including paint. Purchase only the amount of chemicals you need and dispose of the rest appropriately. Vapors can leak from closed containers that remain around the house or garage ( Ask your dry-cleaner what process is used to clean your clothing.

Advocate with your school board and at the statehouse for the use of greener cleaners, pesticide-free schools and child care centers, and a precautionary approach to the use of any chemical which has not been tested for its effects on human health.


Healthcare workers, including nurses, are routinely exposed to volatile organic compounds such as floor strippers and cleaning agents, the sterilants formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde, and fragrances. All of these substances are respiratory irritants and asthma triggers.

Dr. Manolis Kogevinas (Kogevinas, et al.) of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, Barcelona, Spain, in his study of occupational asthma, found that nurses were second only to printers in their risk for the disease.

Likewise, the American Nurses Association’s survey “Nurses Health: A Survey on Health & Chemical Exposures” found that:

  • 92% of the more than 1,500 nurses surveyed reported on-the-job exposures to housekeeping chemicals. Those with at least weekly exposures for ten years, reported 47 % higher rates of asthma than other nurses.
  • Nurses with frequent, long-term exposures to hand and skin disinfection products reported 39% higher rates of asthma than other nurses.
  • Of those nurses who reported exposures to glutaraldehyde, those with frequent, long-term exposures reported 46% higher rates of asthma than other nurses.
  • Nurses with frequent, long-term exposures to latex reported 39% higher rates of asthma than other nurses.
  • Of the nurses who reported exposures to ethylene oxide, those with frequent, long-term exposures reported 45% higher rates of asthma than other nurses (
  • Fragrance, also an asthma trigger, is very often a self-chosen means of scenting the air or masking a less pleasant scent. Nevertheless, fragrance is a VOC that may be a problem for sensitized co-workers. Consult Betty Bridges’ article entitled Fragrance: Emerging Health and Environmental Concerns (2002) for a complete evaluation of the fragrance dilemma

    The manner in which chemicals are used also effects the quality of indoor air. Pour and wipe applications of cleaning agents/chemicals is preferable to spray bottles or aerosol cans. Avoiding concentrates that require mixing or dilution also avoids exposing workers to improperly prepared solutions that may increase toxicity (

    Keep in mind that many healthcare facilities may unintentionally propagate poor indoor air quality by building an air-tight facility with windows that cannot be opened to allow for clean air exchange.

    In addition to the actions listed above to lesson VOCs in the home, healthcare leaders should be made aware of the burden of asthma and other work-related illness in their facility. The cost of lost work days, medical care, and worker’s compensation should also be tabulated as a means of estimating the real cost of work-related illness to the employer.


    Kogevinas M, et al. Exposure to substances in the workplace and new-onset asthma: an international prospective population-based study. Vol 370 July 28, 2007.


    Ohio EPA’s Environmental Education fund has awarded a $5,000 mini grant to the Ohio Nurses Association to teach pollution prevention to nurse leaders. The Ohio Nurses Association will offer a train-the-trainer program to enable nurse leaders to assess nurse involvement and buy-in for waste management efforts at health care facilities, providing a toolkit to help nurse leaders learn procedures and benefits of pollution prevention, waste reduction, and environmental compliance in a health care setting. CGH Environmental Strategies, the Ohio Hospital Association, and the Ohio Organization of Nurse Executives are collaborating.


    Toledo, Ohio played host to American Rivers’ ( first rain barrel distribution event earlier this year. Rain barrels from the New England Rain Barrel Company ( were distributed along with instructions for installation. Barrels vary in cost according to size and composition.

    According to the Rain Barrel Guide (, harvesting rain water can result in significant savings on your water bill and provide a source of soft water, devoid of chemicals and minerals, for use in watering your garden or washing your car. Collected rain water should not be used as drinking water without further filtration and approval from local authorities, and, in fact, may be prohibited. Various types of roofs and gutters may contribute dangerous substances such as lead or asbestos to the collected water.

    A second rain barrel distribution event is planned for August 2, 2008 at the Erie Street Market in Toledo.

    Hmmm, I think I found just the right present for Father’s Day this year.


    As part of a deliverable under a 2007-2008 U.S. EPA Region V grant awarded to Hospitals for a Healthy Environment and the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA), OHA’s Environmental Leadership Council reviewed proposals from several electronic waste disposal businesses and determined that TechDisposal was most qualified to meet the needs of Ohio hospitals.

    One important consideration in reaching that recommendation is that TechDisposal currently holds the e-waste management contract for all state government agencies in Ohio. OHA does not endorse any vendor but, based upon the deliberations of its Environmental Leadership Council, recommends that hospitals consider TechDisposal when considering their e-waste needs. For more information, contact: Shannon Broadbent-Saksaka at 614.328.0195 or by email at or Susan Zabo 614.221.7614 or


    **The Kid Safe Chemical Act 2008 (H.R. 6100) introduced by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Reps. Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) would place the burden on manufacturers to prove that their products are safe.

    The bill would also empower the EPA by mandating protection of the public from chemical exposures and providing the agency with the necessary enforcement authority.

    The current Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, often pronounced as Toss-ka) of 1976 has proven to be a weak law providing for little to no prior testing of chemicals introduced into the marketplace and hamstringing the EPA from taking effective action even when safety data is available.

    …a much needed first step into reforming America’s chemical policy.

    For more information, go to the Environmental Working Group at Read the bill at

    **The BPA-Free Kids Act of 2008 ( S.B. 2928 ) was introduced in the Senate on April 29, 2008 Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). This bill would ban bisphenol-A, an endocrine disrupting substance found in plastic baby bottles and the lining of food cans, from children’s products. The term “children’s product” means a consumer product designed for or intended for use by, or care of, a child 7 years of age or younger.

    **Canada recently banned bisphenol-A from certain products, prompting large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys R’ US to pledge removal of BPA containing products from their shelves. Manufacturers of baby bottles are following suit. Read the bill at

    **On April 23rd, the Ohio Energy Bill (Ohio Senate Bill 221) passed in the Senate, following passage in the House on April 22nd. Under the Energy Efficiency Standard, Electric utility companies must achieve energy savings each year, starting at 0.3% in 2009 and increasing to 2% per year by 2019. By 2025, utility companies must achieve energy savings totaling 22%. The increased efficiency should save consumers an estimated $1.7 billion. Read the Ohio Energy Bill at:

    **On April 25th, a new Ohio law became effective that prohibits the disposal of lead acid batteries in solid or hazardous waste refills. Most vehicle batteries are covered by the law including cars, motorcycles, wheelchairs, and boats. The law exempts batteries used in consumer products such as computers, electronic games, and telephones. The law is intended to ensure that all spent lead acid batteries are recycled in Ohio. For further information, go to

    **Ohio voters established the $400 million Clean Ohio Fund in 2000 to conserve green space, preserve farmland, build trails, and revitalize blighted neighborhoods by cleaning up and redeveloping polluted properties. The current fund is depleted. Governor Strickland and legislative leaders have pledged to seek voter approval to borrow an additional $400 million for the fund. A two-thirds vote by both the Ohio House and Senate is needed to place this State issue before the voters.


    **The Cornell University Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors has released three short videos on environmental estrogens found in everyday products, including cosmetics and personal care products, plastics, detergents, and estrogenic heavy metals found in electronics.

    The videos were designed to reach younger women (teens and college aged), an audience that often is not aware of breast cancer risk factors.

    **Premier Inc. is a hospital performance improvement alliance with 1,700 participating not-for-profit hospitals and health systems serving communities nationwide. Two hundred hospitals and health systems created and entirely own the Premier alliance. Premier’s core purpose is “To improve the health of communities.

    Premier Inc. offers two different newsletters, one with a safety focus (Safety Share), and the other, a green focus (Green Link). To sign up for the newsletters, go to The Premier web site also offers the Green Corner, a series of success stories on green purchasing and healthcare practices at Topics include computers/electronics, LEED construction, energy efficiency, indoor air pollution, and recycling and waste reduction, among others.

    **A Pediatric Environmental Health Toolkit, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, on preventing exposures to toxic chemicals and other substances that affect infant and child health is available FREE/downloadable from the Physician for Social Responsibility (PSR) website. The Toolkit is a combination of easy-to-use reference guides for health providers and user friendly health education materials on preventing exposures. The materials are visually appealing, practical and easy-to-use. PSR also has hard copies of the toolkit that can be ordered from their website, posters and other materials. See the website below for details.

    **Evidence for Innovation: Transforming Children’s Health Through the Physical Environment published by the Center for Health Design and the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) is available at

    Correction: The Web site of the Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter was incorrectly listed in the previous publication. The correct address is Please accept our apologies.


    Want to have a greener meeting? Add green commitments to presentation requests.

    Building A Framework for Healthy Housing: 2008 National Healthy Homes Conference

    This conference will gather a community of experts to discuss regulatory, policy, research, and outreach needs and their implications in the development of comprehensive, integrated approaches linking health and housing to ensure safe, healthy and efficient housing.

    September 15-17, 2008 at the Baltimore Hilton * Baltimore, Maryland

    Ohio’s 14th Lead and Healthy Homes Conference

    The conference goal is to educate health care and environmental professionals, parents and community leaders about the current medical, environmental and programmatic issues of childhood lead poisoning prevention and the healthy home in Ohio

    June 3-5, 2008 at The Crowne Plaza Columbus North * Columbus, Ohio


    In the mid-1980’s, NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America conducted a 2-year study that supported the use of indoor plants to absorb pollutants. Philodendron, spider plant, and golden pothos were the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. Flowering plants such as chrysanthemums were able to remove benzene from the atmosphere (

    Wood, R. et al presented a similar study in 2006 finding that potted plants can provide an efficient, self-regulating, low-cost, sustainable, bioremediation system for indoor air pollution… (


    1 Comment so far
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    make scented candles…

    Thanks for the interesting info. I do not typically get to read different poeple’s feedback, much less take part. Because its Monday, I’ve some free time – I always learn something. Thank you….

    Trackback by make scented candles

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