Toxic Classrooms – Keeping toxins out of the classroom is important at the best of times, but when a teacher is pregnant, the question of indoor air quality and environmental toxins becomes even more crucial.
Let’s have a look at Toxic Classrooms – A Guide for Pregnant Teachers:
Paints, glues, window treatments, carpets and vinyl flooring materials can release toxic chemicals long after they’ve been installed. While factors such as these in a school cannot easily be controlled, there are several steps that a teacher can take to reduce her exposure to harmful chemicals, especially when she’s expecting.
Using non-toxic markers and art materials, avoiding PVC plastic, ensuring proper indoor ventilation and controlling toxic cleaning supplies are a few ways to create a safer work environment during pregnancy.
A recent study by the University of California at San Francisco found dozens of contaminants in 99 to 100 percent of the pregnant women they examined. Their findings showed that chemicals can cross the placenta and enter the fetus. In some cases, such as for mercury, fetal exposures are higher than maternal exposure. And multiple chemical exposures are of increasing concern since they can work together to compound a health risk. With a small body weight, immature systems to defend and detoxify the body, and a long life span ahead of them, unborn babies are the most vulnerable to chemical exposures.
The following tips are simple measures that can be taken to reduce exposure to toxins ever-present in schools.
Tip 1: Non-Toxic Markers – use non-toxic, low-odor dry-erase markers that are not solvent-based.
Yeah, you might have seen this one coming, as it is what we do everyday. Using non-toxic, low-odor dry-erase markers is the most effective way for an expectant teacher to protect herself and her unborn child from the vapors of xylene and toluene, chemicals that are used in regular dry-erase markers.
Xylene appears naturally in petroleum and tar, and studies have shown toluene to have an embryo-toxic effect on animals. Even many markers labeled ‘non-toxic’ cause headaches and a buildup of smelly fumes in a poorly ventilated room. Our EcoSmart markers use ink without the bad chemicals (our ink is made with denatured alcohol and vegetable dyes, and are odor-free), taking away the toxicity risk for expecting teachers.
Tip 2: Avoid packing food and beverages in plastic containers
Plastic wrap, plastic drink bottles and plastic food storage containers can all leach phthalates into what we are eating or drinking. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics and pose a risk to an expectant mother’s endocrine (hormone) system.
Phthalates chemically mimic hormones and are particularly dangerous to children, potentially affecting their future fertility. Glass or ceramic containers, stainless steel bottles and organic cotton food wraps are all safer ways to store food and beverages.
Tip 3: Ask if your classroom can be cleaned with certified green cleaning supplies
A recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in the U.S. has revealed that cleaning supplies used in schools could be polluting classroom air with more than 450 distinct toxic contaminants, including chemical agents linked to asthma and cancer.
If you request for your classroom to specifically be cleaned with products that have the Green Seal or EcoLogo, you’ll be sure to have approximately 80 percent fewer contaminants being emitted into your classroom air. It may be up to you to purchase products such as Marauder, Glance NA, and Alpha HP, but you will be assured of a ‘cleaner’ work environment.
Tip 4: PVC-free products
It seems like school supplies are laced with PVC plastic. Infamously known as ‘the poison plastic’ PVC plastic can be identified by the number 3 sign, and can be recognized under the name vinyl. Binders, rulers, backpacks, lunchboxes, writing instruments, and apparel like rain boots and rain jackets are common PVC plastic products.
But there are several alternatives on the market made out of natural fibers such as canvas, wood, hemp, bamboo, cotton or even 100% post-consumer waste rubber. Synthetic materials such as polyester or nylon are also good non-toxic choices.
Tip 5: Classroom ventilation – ensure that there is good ventilation
The contaminants circulating through classroom air can include carbon dioxide, illnesses such as respiratory infections, molds and bacteria, vehicle exhaust and vapors from markers, cleaning products and copy machines, to name a few.
In an effort to make our schools and homes more energy efficient, we have made them more air tight, and as a result environmental contaminants are unable to escape the room. A discussion with the building maintenance staff could be helpful in ensuring that the ventilation equipment and filters have recently received attention. A government checklist “School Ventilation Systems” can help ensure the overall health of the school’s ventilation system.
The dizzying array of chemicals found in our classrooms is troubling, but rather than being overwhelmed by their presence, a few simple choices can help significantly reduce your exposure to harmful toxins and ensure a healthier pregnancy.
Armed with non-toxic school supplies, certified green cleaning products, and products free of PVC plastic and phthalates, you know you will be giving your baby a cleaner start.