Monday, October 17, 2011

EcoLogo Revises Hard Surface Cleaners Standard

Cleanlink News 8/4/2011

The EcoLogo Program released its newly-revised environmental standard for hard surface cleaners that limits products containing asthmagens or chemicals known to trigger or aggravate asthma, a disease affecting 25 million Americans and one in 10 school-aged children.

The revised standard strengthens the health and environmental requirements for certification of hard surface cleaners, specifically limits the use of asthmagens and excludes substances that are harmful to humans or the environment. These include ammonia, formaldehyde and phthalates - hazardous chemicals commonly found in cleaning products.

This broad-reaching standard covers a variety of products used at home, in schools and in other institutional and commercial environments. It includes general purpose, restroom and glass cleaners as well as dish detergents, degreasers and cleaners for cooking appliances. The standard also includes industrial, vehicle and boat cleaners.

Limiting asthmagens is an important addition to this standard and the EcoLogo Program will continue to research the issue to ensure that future revisions keep up to date with current research on asthmagens.

This standards development process was supported by Jack Geibig, Director of the University of Tennessee Center for Clean Products, leaders in the development of environmental product and material standards.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Antibacterial Chemical Raises Safety Issues

Published: August 19, 2011
The New York Times
Andrew Martin

The maker of Dial Complete hand soap says that it kills more germs than any other brand. But is it safe?

That question has federal regulators, consumer advocates and soap manufacturers locked in a battle over the active ingredient in Dial Complete and many other antibacterial soaps, a chemical known as triclosan.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of the chemical, which was created more than 40 years ago as a surgical scrub for hospitals. Triclosan is now in a range of consumer products, including soaps, kitchen cutting boards and even a best-selling toothpaste, Colgate Total. It is so prevalent that a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the chemical present in the urine of 75 percent of Americans over the age of 5.

Several studies have shown that triclosan may alter hormone regulation in laboratory animals or cause antibiotic resistance, and some consumer groups and members of Congress want it banned in antiseptic products like hand soap. The F.D.A. has already said that soap with triclosan is no more effective than washing with ordinary soap and water. a finding that manufacturers dispute.

The F.D.A. was to announce the results of its review several months ago, but now says the timing is uncertain and unlikely until next year. The Environmental Protection Agency is also looking into the safety of triclosan.

The outcome of the federal inquiries poses a significant risk to the makers of antimicrobial and antibacterial hand soaps, which represent about half of the $750 million market for liquid hand soaps in the United States, according to the market research firm Kline & Company.

Many of those soaps use triclosan as the active ingredient and say so on the label. Dial Complete is the fifth-best-selling liquid hand soap in the nation, according to data collected from the most major stores (except for Wal-mart) by SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Richard Theiler, senior vice president for research and development at Henkel, the German-based manufacturer of Dial Complete, said there was no real evidence showing that triclosan was dangerous for humans. He also said that several recent studies had proved the effectiveness of triclosan in killing germs, and that those studies had been submitted to the federal regulators.

"it has been used now in products safely for decades," Mr. Theiler said.

But as consumer groups have campaigned against triclosan, some consumer product manufacturers have removed it and substituted less controversial ingredients. Reckitt Benckiser removed triclosan from three face washes, for instance. And citing "changing consumer preferences," Colgate-Palmolive replaced triclosan with lactic acid in Palmolive Antibacterial Dish Liquid, and its Softsoap liquid hand soap has been reformulated without the chemical.

Colgate, however, continues to use triclosan in its Colgate Total toothpaste because it has been proved to fight gingivitis, a claim approved by the F.D.A.

"The safety and efficacy of Colgate Total toothpaste is fully supported by over 70 clinical studies in over 10,000 patients," the company said in a statement.

Scientists have raised concerns about triclosan for decades. Last year, Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, pressured the F.D.A. to write regulations for antiseptic products like hand soap, including the use of triclosan. The process of creating regulations was started more than three decades ago, but has been repeatedly delayed. In the meantime, Mr. Markey has called for a ban on triclosan in hand soaps, in products that come in contact with food and in products marketed to children.

The concern is based on recent studies about the possible health impacts of triclosan, which the F.D.A. said, in a Feb. 23, 2010, letter to Mr. Markey, "raise valid concerns about the effect of repetitive daily human exposure to these antiseptic ingredients."

Several have shown that triclosan disrupts the thyroid hormone in frogs and rats, while others have shown that triclosan alters the sex hormones of laboratory animals. Others studies have shown that triclosan can cause some bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.

Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, said the evidence against triclosan was hardly convincing and that the chemical had been used safely in consumer products and in hospitals for decades. He said there was no evidence that triclosan caused antibiotic resistance.

"You would think after heavy use in hospital settings over several decades it would have shown up by now," Mr. Sansoni said. "This is one of those big urban myths that opponents of these products try to spread."

Concerning studies that showed triclosan to be an endocrine disruptor, he said that the animals used in the studies were subjected to "levels that the rat, let alone us, would never come in contact with in everyday use."

According to a lawsuit filed last year by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the F.D.A. first proposed regulating over-the-counter topical antiseptic drug products like triclosan in 1972, but the review has never been completed. In 1978, the F.D.A. proposed eliminating triclosan as an active ingredient in hospital scrubs and in hand soaps within a couple of years.

The agency issued a similar order in 1994, but again, nothing final was authorized, the lawsuit says.

The environmental group's lawsuit sought to pressure the F.D.A. to complete its regulations of antiseptic soaps.

Triclosan is often the active ingredient in soaps that are marketed as antibacterial or antimicrobial, even though, in 2005, an F.D.A. advisory panel said triclosan-laced soap was no better at preventing illness than other soap and water.

"A lot of people mistakenly believe that if they buy something with a chemical in it that is antibacterial that it's a plus," said Dr. Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council. "I think the marketing of these far outweighs the statements on F.D.A.'s web site, which most people don't even go to."

Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, the F.D.A.'s deputy director for regulatory programs, said its review was primarily focused on hand soaps but could extend to other consumer products if the agency determined that triclosan raised health concerns. He said that the F.D.A. had determined that triclosan provided a benefit in Colgate Total, by fighting gingivitis, where triclosan in soap did not.

"That is an important difference to us," he said.

Indeed, several lawsuits have been filed saying that Henkel is making false claims in its marketing of Dial Complete. But Mr. Theiler, at Henkel, said he was confident that recent studies would vindicate triclosan.'

"We note that the F.D.A. stated in their announcement on April 8, 2010, that the agency does not have sufficient safety evidence to recommend changing consumer use of products that contain triclosan at this time," he said. "We concur with this position."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bedbugs Found Carrying Superbug

According to an article scheduled to be released in the June 2011 issue of Energing Infectious Diseases, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health journal, bedbugs were reportedly refound to carry Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Vancomyclin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE). Although bedbugs have not been shown to spread disease to date, Canadian researchers have now proven that they at least carry bacteria known to cause these sometimes hard-to-treat infections.

At this time, there is no clear evidence that the bedbugs have spread the MRSA or VRE germs they were carrying, but according to Dr. Marc Romney, a medical biologist with St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, “this is an intriguing finding” that needs to be further researched.

Five bedbugs were analyzed. MRSA was found in three of the bugs and VRE in two.

Romney also noted that the hospital is in an area of Vancouver that has recently seen a “boom in bedbugs” and a significant increase in MRSA cases.

Bedbugs are about 7 mm long, wingless and reddish brown in color and feed on the blood of their victims. Because they are so small, they are often hard to detect, and the situation is made worse because they commonly live in the cracks and crevices of mattresses.

In the past couple of years, finding ways to eradicate bedbugs has garnered considerable attention in the professional cleaning industry.

For instance, Michael Schaffer, president of Tornado Industries and a senior executive with Tacony’s Commercial Floor Care division, has authored several industry articles on the subject. He has also published a white paper, Effective Treatment of Bedbug Infestations, which suggests ways the jan/san industry can help eradicate bedbugs and do so in a more environmentally responsible manner.

“The study does not indicate exactly how the bedbugs picked up the bacteria, but this is definitely a concern,” says Schaffer. “In the past, bedbug bites were mostly bothersome. While more research is required, [this study] makes the bites far more serious.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bedbug Infestations A Concern In Commercial Offices

Cleanlink News August 24 2010

Defying their reputation as a scourge of households, blood-sucking bedbugs are creeping into a growing number of cubicles, break rooms and filing cabinets. Noted in a USA Today article, nearly one in five exterminators have found bedbugs in office buildings in the U.S., according to a recent survey of extermination firms by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky. That compares with less than 1% in 2007.

Most cubicle dwellers and corner office executives are blissfully unaware of bug problems. And many wrongly think infestations take place only in the homes of unclean folks or in college dorms. But bedbugs can survive in a multitude of eek-evoking settings, such as offices, movie theaters and libraries.

Concerned about the swelling number of infestations in New York City, publishing giant Time recently brought in bedbug-sniffing dogs. The canines found a few cases, which Time had treated two weeks ago.

The District Attorney's office in Brooklyn recently discovered that they had the critters, as well, and exterminated over a weekend.

The IRS had bedbugs in its offices in Philadelphia and Covington, Ky. It had exterminators into those offices and is still monitoring the situation.

Bedbug issues are "a complicated mess," says entomology professor Michael Potter of the University of Kentucky. "In my career — and I've dealt with just about every critter that bothers people — this is the most complex."

Commuting In
Once bedbugs settle into corporate digs, it's tough to get them out. The apple-seed-size insects dine on human blood. They hide in crevices and are resilient to many insecticides. They can live for a year without feeding, and they replicate quickly. The offspring of two bedbugs that move into an office in September can produce more than 300 bugs and lay about 1,000 additional eggs by January, says Harrison.

They infiltrate the workplace through various routes, such as on the suitcases of frequent travelers or on the purses, laptop cases and gym bags of employees who have infestations at home. They can also be brought in by office visitors, vendors or maintenance staff.

As the parasites spread at hotels, hospitals, schools and homes, it's natural that some workers will inadvertently transport them into the office, says Larry Pinto, co-author of the Bed Bug Handbook. And in a big office, there can be more than one carrier. "(Different) people can be bringing them in," he says.

Pest management firms have had a 57% increase in bedbug-related calls in the last five years, and an 81% increase since 2000, according to the survey. Nearly all the firms polled — 95% — said they've had to tackle a bedbug case in the last year.

Four out of every 10 treatments were in commercial buildings.

In one bizarre case this summer, custodians at the Argonne Armory municipal office building in Des Moines found a bag of bedbugs left on a hallway floor. Police have no idea who left the bag of bugs or why.

Infestations Spreading
Putting aside the rare, rogue acts of a saboteur, pest control professionals have a few main theories about why the bugs are resurging in the U.S. They include increased travel, more immigration and the bug's resiliency to pesticides. In addition, the "denial/lack of incident reporting by tenants, workers, landlords, hotel or business management (and) universities," has exacerbated the problem, according to the survey.

The insects are especially troublesome in densely populated cities, where they can spread quickly. But smaller areas aren't immune.

"Cincinnati is awash in bedbugs, and Detroit is coming on strong," says Mark Sheperdigian, vice president of technical services at Troy, Mich.-based Rose Pest Solutions. "We even have some small towns here in Michigan that have way more troubles with bedbugs than they deserve.

"Some ways they have an impact on the workplace:
• Lawsuits and human resource woes.
• Unwanted publicity.
• Physical and mental anguish for workers.
• Widespread infestations.

Challenging to Destroy
There can be indications that bedbugs have moved in, such as employees seeing the six-legged crawler or its black fecal matter. But usually it takes a professional exterminator — and even a bedbug-sniffing dog — to unearth the full extent of the problem. It often takes multiple treatments to completely squash an infestation.

It took three fumigations and a heat treatment to get the situation under control at the Des Moines Armory. The total cost was $5,150. Smaller offices often pay $5,000 to $10,000 for bedbug exterminations, while the price for larger offices can easily hit six figures, says Pinto. Just to hire the keen-smelling canines to investigate a full floor at a large corporate office building could cost $1,000 to $5,000.

Barry Beck, chief operating officer of New York City-based exterminator Assured Environments, says client requests for examinations and treatments of commercial buildings have skyrocketed. Even after shelling out big bucks, it's almost impossible to know that every bug is dead. And if an unidentified worker has a large infestation at home — or if company business travelers stay at bedbug-ridden hotels — the critters will likely keep coming back.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Best Practices for High Touch Surface Cleaning in Healthcare

Cleanlink News January 27 2011

In lieu of recent changes in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calling for increased cleaning performance and integration of new auditing controls to regulate cleaning efficacy, the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) and Cintas Corporation released a list of best practices for reducing healthcare acquired infections (HAIs) and enhancing levels of cleanliness within a healthcare facility.

“The days of infection prevention and environmental service departments working autonomously are over,” said J. Darrel Hicks, REH, author of Infection Prevention for Dummies. “These new guidelines clearly demonstrate the increased need for cooperation between the two departments and the need for a reevaluation of current cleaning programs in place.

”Recent hospital studies found that only 25 to 45 percent of touch points nearest the patient met the definition of “clean” according to research criteria. Interventions raised the rate of clean to 75 percent. To improve cleaning performance and help reduce opportunities for HAIs, the following are recommended:

1. Cultivate an environment of partnership. Infection prevention should work together with environmental service departments to ensure the facility is being cleaned at optimal levels with the resources available. Schedule ongoing meetings with the other department so there is open communication between the two groups.
2. Benchmark cleaning products and processes. Work with manufacturers to identify product needs and have them assist in audits to ensure the proper processes are in place and that the products are used effectively. Infection prevention can also be a valuable resource throughout the product evaluation process.
3. Conduct time audits. For comprehensive surface cleaning, environmental service workers need enough time to thoroughly address all surfaces throughout a patient room. By working with infection prevention to conduct time studies, environmental service managers can determine exactly how much time is needed to thoroughly clean and disinfect all appropriate surface areas. 4. Provide thorough employee training. Education is the key to a quality infection prevention program, so cleaning personnel should be trained on not only how to effectively clean and disinfect surfaces, but why it is important. Training should include courses on microbiology so workers can understand some of the chemistry behind the disinfection process. With this knowledge, workers will possess the tools necessary to identify high touch surface cleaning targets.
5. Recognize and empower cleaning personnel. As acknowledged by the updated CDC guidelines, cleaning personnel are an integral part of any infection prevention program, so they should be recognized as such. Ongoing recognition will empower workers and encourage them to focus on job performance. Monthly award programs or yearly company-wide events such as International Housekeepers Week provide opportunities for much deserved recognition.
6. Measure cleaning performance on an ongoing basis. The CDC offers a checklist of areas to be routinely checked and monitored. These include bed rails, tray tables, light switches and other high-touch areas throughout the patient room. To ensure these areas are cleaned effectively, handheld devices such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters can measure soil levels. Black light markers and UV lights can also measure cleaning performance.

“Environmental service departments play an integral role in infection prevention efforts,” added Brent Schafer, Vice President of Healthcare, Cintas. “By following these best practices, healthcare organizations can coordinate efforts and keep high touch surfaces free of infection.”

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pilot: Productivity/Savings from Green Cleaning Technology

Cleanlink News February 11 2011

In recognition of the trend toward more innovative approaches to green cleaning, the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA) is starting a pilot program and field study to evaluate new technologies and processes some experts predict will change the nature of green cleaning. Leaders in the educational sector and leading school districts are being offered an opportunity to participate in the next phase of green cleaning by joining in the field testing of key technologies utilizing renewable, reduced-chemical, or chemical-free cleaning and sanitizing processes. The program is being offered selectively to facilities that IEHA has identified as industry leaders, and involves steps including:
• Development of a confidential report that the educational facility can use to drive progressive decision making;
• Opportunity to participate as a member of a “Renewable Cleaning Consortium” under the auspices of the upcoming Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Clostridium difficile is a rising health threat

More than a third of cases in the ongoing outbreak at St. Joseph’s in Hamilton – where 13 infected patients have died – came from outside that hospital.

Incoming patients infected with C. diff are a growing problem across North America, complicating efforts to stem the spread of spores in ambulances, emergency rooms and wards. A study by Duke University in North Carolina showed the rate of C. diff in U.S. community hospitals is outstripping MRSA, methicillin – resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the virulent staph infection that once was the most prevalent threat.

How Hospitals are fighting back

In the years since hospital – acquired C. diff came to widespread public attention, largely due to Ontario’s biggest outbreak at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington, health professionals have learned many new techniques and are also stressing more vigorous traditional infection control, such as hand washing.

Recent studies, for example, have confirmed what hospitals have known, that private rooms and scrupulous isolation are keys to stopping C. diff’s spread. Housekeeping improvements have been made at many hospitals, including wider use of bleach, which is the most effective barrier against C. diff spores.

As well, nurses and doctors have been cautioned that alcohol-based gels are not effective against C. diff spores, which live on hard surfaces such as furniture, as well as on clothing and skin, and must be scrubbed from hands with soap.

Antibiotic stewardship to reduce inappropriate use of certain drugs has also become an accepted imperative. At least one class of drugs, known as fluoroquinolones, is a confirmed trigger for C. diff.

Compiled by Joan Walters
The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday January 27, 2011