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State Mandates for Using Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products in Schools Debated

More states are requiring schools and government buildings to use environmentally friendly cleaning products, raising some debate about their costs and benefits.

After a burst of legislation last year, 10 states including Connecticut, Illinois and New York require or encourage "green" floor waxes, window cleaners and other products in schools, according to Green Seal Inc., a nonprofit that certifies the products. Similar bills are expected to be debated this year in at least five states.

Critics say that while the measures are laudable, states should not mandate which products schools and agencies must buy, especially if they increase costs for governments that are struggling financially.

But supporters say the laws protect the environment and reduce the use of harsh chemicals that can harm workers' and children's health.

"The goal of the bill is to make schools and other public space less toxic and healthier for kids and the general public," said Democratic Rep. Cory Mason, sponsor of a bill in Wisconsin.

Quincy Public School Maintenance Director Dennis Peters said while the district wasn't mandated to use green cleaning products until a year ago, it started a year early.

"We'll do anything we can to help out the environment," he said.

The cost is about the same, Peters said, although the district hasn't switched all its paper products to recyclables yet. 

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