Green Cleaning Project

Cleaning staff

Who Is Conducting the Research Study?

The Green Cleaning study is being conducted by researchers in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the UConn Health. The research team is working in collaboration with community partners including state agencies, labor unions, and other community organizations, like ConnectiCOSH, to develop health and safety training and educational materials to help workers better understand what “green cleaners” and green cleaning are, and the type of work practices that can protect workers’ health while cleaning.

What Is the Purpose of the Research Study?

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The purpose of the study is to find out ways workers and workplaces choose to adopt cleaning products that have lower health and environmental impact, and what obstacles they face in transitioning to using them. We are also researching how frequently custodians develop asthma and skin disorder and custodians’ exposures to a group of specific chemicals (phthalates) found in current cleaning and household products. With this information, the research team developed a training program to increase the acceptance and proper use of green cleaning products.

This research study is a collaborative approach that helps to link community partners and UConn Health researchers in identifying and developing solutions to problems in worker health and safety. The study is funded by a federal grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Study Accomplishments

The study is in its fifth and final year.

Ten focus groups (with a total of 64 participants) in English, Spanish, and Polish were conducted to investigate barriers and incentives to implementing green cleaning programs. Focus group data were transcribed (and translated into English when necessary) and analyzed using Atlas TI, a qualitative analysis software. Themes included: satisfaction in a “well-done” job, more effort required for job, lack of involvement in EPP selection process, EPP ease of use for workers with limited English proficiency (LEP), misuse of disinfectants, health complaints, and need for training.

The research team collected urine samples from 68 custodians to evaluate the levels of a particular type of chemical called phthalates that are found in a variety of products including traditional cleaners, food containers, and personal care products such as shampoos and deodorants.

The research team and community partners developed the Green Cleaning and Health Survey. The survey asks custodians, cooks and animal care technicians about their work, health, cleaners used, cleaning tasks, and satisfaction with cleaning products. The survey was completed by 417 respondents in March 2012, and is currently being administered (Spring 2014) to measure program impact including outcome of training, and to expand upon our understanding of barrier and incentives to personal protective equipment use.

A green cleaning training curriculum was developed in collaboration with union steering committee and the Green Cleaning Advisory Board using a Community Based Participatory approach. Topics for the training were identified based on findings from the focus groups and the Green Cleaning and Health Survey. The training incorporates the Small Group Activity method which has been successfully implemented by union trainers.

The following training materials are available in English, Spanish, and Polish.