When the mother of a Ridgecrest Intermediate School student noticed her daughter returning home from school with hives, or missing class altogether with allergic reactions, she decided to look into the cleaning products used at the campus.
What she found was a host of chemical-based cleaners that she believed were exacerbating her daughter’s health issues and causing her to miss school. Her family had already started using nontoxic cleaning products in their home, and she noticed that her daughter fared far better on weekends or school breaks when she was away from the classroom for days.
So she went to the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Board of Education and asked them to make a switch to nontoxic, green-based cleaners. Now, months after her request, nearly every campus in the district is cleaned with nontoxic products, and staff are in the process of swapping out the pesticides and herbicides used at schools for green alternatives.
After the change was made at Ridgecrest, the mother, who requested anonymity to keep her daughter’s medical history private, noticed an almost immediate improvement in her child’s health. “She’s not going to school fearful that if she touches something it could cause her to have an allergic reaction.”
All the remaining chemical cleaners were consolidated at Peninsula High and will be used during the summer to finish off what’s left before students return to the campus.
The district-wide switch started at a small group of pilot campuses in March and has since expanded to include nearly every school in the district.
The change of both indoor and outdoor products is part of a larger move toward green products spurred by a push from the community to eliminate toxic chemicals around the district, said Keith Butler, assistant superintendent for business services, the department that oversees maintenance in the PVPUSD.
“Our community is asking for it, and we think it’s the right step to take to be as safe as possible for children,” Butler said.
Butler said district officials were already considering making the change from traditional chemical cleaners, and the direct request from the mother of the Ridgecrest student ended up being the final push to initiate the switch.
This week, district staff are testing replacements for weed-killer Roundup, which was recently added to a statewide list of chemicals believed to be linked to cancer. Butler said staff are testing a citrus-oil-based weed killer called Avenger to replace the chemical herbicide, as well as a solution of vinegar, detergent and salt to kill weeds.
Swapping out the old products wasn’t a difficult process, Butler said. WAXIE Sanitary Supply, the company the district has worked with for years, offered up green alternatives to the existing chemicals, and the change was largely seamless, he said.
Butler added that he hasn’t had much feedback yet from parents or teachers on the switch. But in this case that’s a good thing, he said.
“It’s one of those things that, if it goes well ... you don’t hear from people,” Butler said.