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Back to School: The Eco Version

Back to School: The Eco Version

 
By Lawrence D. Rosen, MD
Medical Advisor, DIEC
 
September-2010-back-to-schoolIt’s that time of year again, and students and teachers alike are getting back in the school routine.  And it’s the perfect time to think about ways we can work together to help create a more ecologically sustainable school environment.   
 One of the easiest, most practical ways to green your school is to start with replacing those ubiquitous toxic cleaners used in most educational institutions around the country.  A recent report published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Association of Pediatrics, raises concerns about ill health effects of these cleaning agents. Two of the most common ingredients, bleach and ammonia, accounted for approximately 40% of the household cleaner poisonings in this study.  School cleaners are typically the same, if not more concentrated and therefore more potent, than household cleaners.  As more and more of us are greening our home cleaners, shouldn’t schools be doing the same?  
 
Cost is no longer an excuse to use conventional, toxic cleaners.  “At worst, it’s cost-neutral” for institutions switching to the Imus Center’s revolutionary Greening The Cleaning® program according to Don O’Hagan, Director of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology.  “Often,” he notes, “we are able to save schools up to 15% compared with what they are spending now.”  The health benefits are even more compelling.  Many of the chemicals used in typical cleaners are suspected carcinogens, neuroimmune toxins and endocrine-disruptors.   
  
Parents and teachers can be very effective advocates, educating administrative officials about the efficacy, safety and cost benefits to greening their school’s operations. Additionally, schools can replace alcohol- and chemical-based hand sanitizers with equally effective but more natural products.  I’ve written before about my experience with one school in N.J., teaching kids (and their teachers) how to make a greener, essential-oil based hand sanitizer.  
 
Once you’ve adopted a green cleaning program, there are, of course, many more ways to help create a greener school environment.  Green, in this case, refers both to bringing more of the natural world to our built school environments (planting trees and gardens) and to supporting sustainable operations that improve the health of our planet and of ourselves (recycling and composting).  The Center for Ecoliteracy has developed a fantastic curriculum for fostering ecological sustainability at schools; for more information about their "Smart By Nature" program, visit their web site. Also, see Deirdre Imus' Greening Your School: 7 Secrets to Getting It Done.
 
 
About Dr. Lawrence Rosen
 
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, New Jersey Medical School; Vice-Chair, AAP Section on Complementary and dr._rosen_2Integrative Medicine;  Medical Advisor, The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology® 
 
Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen is a board-certified general pediatrician committed to family-centered, holistic child health care. He is the founder of one of the country's first green, integrative primary care practices -- Whole Child Center (wholechildcenter.org) -- in Oradell, NJ. He serves as Medical Advisor to The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology. 
 
Dr. Rosen is a nationally recognized expert in Pediatric Integrative Medicine. He is a founding member and Vice-Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine. He is a frequent speaker at both professional and consumer gatherings, discussing topics such as holistic care of the newborn and the integrative management of autism. Dr. Rosen is a graduate of New York Medical College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.  
  
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