Nassau, Bahamas – May 23, 2016 – Let’s face it, working in an office can sometimes feel like doing time in a germ factory. One cough or sneeze from a nearby cubicle and suddenly the entire staff is walking around with puffy eyes and tissue boxes tucked under their arms. But it may not always be a coworker who’s to blame for spreading flu-like symptoms. In fact, it may be the office itself that’s making people sick.
Known as Sick Building Syndrome, a school or office building becomes “sick” when poor air ventilation circulates volatile organic compounds . Spending hours cooped up inside a sick building every day can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose or throat irritation and asthma attacks, all of which may seem very flu-like at first, but none of which can be staved off with doses of aspirin and bed rest.
“It’s increasingly becoming a major occupational hazard,” said Dr. Arlington Lightbourne, owner of The Wellness Clinic in Nassau. “How do we ensure people are happy, healthy and productive members of society? Through prevention.”
Lightbourne is one of 10 Bahamian doctors who collaborated to create The Green Cleaners, a Nassau cleaning agency owned and operated by Healthy Clean Ltd., that provides certified green cleaning janitorial and housekeeping services to private homes, vacation rentals, clinics, doctor’s offices and office buildings.
“Cleaning is an advanced science,” said Lightbourne. “You’re battling infectious diseases, allergies and asthma. It takes awareness and training so you’re minimizing the spread of disease without destroying your health or the environment. Green cleaning certification insures that our cleaning staff is current on safe green practices, training, and regulations.”
To become and remain certified as a green cleaner, companies must adhere to strict requirements as outlined by Green Seal, an American organization that provides standards and certification to protect human health and the environment. To meet the Green Seal Standard for Cleaning Services (GS-42), cleaning equipment must be energy efficient, staff training must be provided and cleaning products and procedures must reduce toxicity and waste, which means conserving water and using durable cleaning tools like microfiber mop heads, cloths and dusters, vacuum cleaners with approved air filters and trash bags that contain a minimum of 10% post-consumer recycled content.
More importantly, under the certification, cleaning solutions cannot contain harmful compounds like the cocktail of chemicals that make up traditional cleaning agents such as heavy metals (mercury, aluminum and arsenic found in laundry detergent), phthalates (present in plastic containers), formaldehyde (a component of dish washing liquids and fabric softeners) and chlorine (an ingredient in household bleach).
“The modern day janitor is on the frontline of infection control,” Lightbourne said. “One well-trained and equipped janitor can save more lives through prevention than a room full of doctors can cure.”
An overwhelming lack of education regarding preventative healthcare measures is what drove Lightbourne and his colleagues to found The Green Cleaners.As a former ER doctor, Lightbourne witnessed firsthand the effects of chronic respiratory illnesses like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and sleep apnea, and became increasingly discouraged by the sheer number of cases that easily could have avoided if only his patients had access to the right information.
“We’re setting out to save lives a different way,” Lightbourne said. “We want to redefine what healthy living means in The Bahamas, not only at the individual level but societally as well, and that includes addressing every aspect of our daily lives—the chemicals we use, the food that we eat and the air that we breathe. Green cleaning is a necessary investment in better health, a better environment and a better bottom line.”