- Certificate of Achievement form
- Non-toxic or least-toxic supplies and materials
- Health criteria for purchase and use
- Technical assistance to schools
Certificate of Achievement for Environmental Health
Under Act 125 Vermont schools can annually apply for a Certificate of Achievement as recognition of their efforts to improve air quality and reduce exposures to hazardous materials.
The standards to receive the certificate include the following:
- Adopting an environmental health management plan & policy
- Adopting purchasing policies that specify non-toxic or least toxic materials
- Adopting an integrated pest management and control program to reduce use and exposure of pesticides
- Completing an annual workshop approved by the Department of Health
- Demonstrating exemplary progress in four of nine environmental health areas.
Non-toxic or least-toxic supplies and materials
Many substances, in large enough quantities, can be toxic. Children and other susceptible populations can be especially affected by some substances, even in very small doses. The presence of a harmful substance does not necessarily mean that people are being harmed, however. The effect depends upon a number of factors including if and how the substance is entering the body.
In addition, what would usually be considered safe for nearly all of a school’s occupants may trigger some health effect in a particular individual. And even non-toxic or least-toxic substances may cause or contribute to health effects under certain conditions.
Schools have a variety of different types of ventilation systems, which means appropriate supplies or materials may vary from one school to another. Therefore, a school should purchase what is appropriate for its particular setting. Be sure to follow all directions and precautions on the MSDS to ensure that the risk of potential health effects is minimized.
Consult our indoor air quality fact sheets and our Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) Resources. You will find a wealth of useful information at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s ToxFAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Contaminants.
The following sites offer information about environmentally preferable products:
- Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Program(Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
- EPA Environmentally Preferable Purchasing site
Important note: While the products listed on these sites may be environmentally preferable to other products, they still may cause adverse reactions in potentially susceptible populations, including children. (Disclaimer)
The following publications from the Consumer Product Safety Commission also offer useful information:
- What You Should Know About Using Paint Strippers
- Tips for Purchasing and Installing New Carpet
- An Update On Formaldehyde
- CPSC Urges Ventilation To Reduce Methylene Chloride Cancer Risk
- Healthy Indoor Painting Practices (pdf)
Health criteria for purchase and use
This section regards environmental health criteria that schools may use as decision-making tools when determining what materials to purchase or use in school construction or operations.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) contain information that may be helpful. When considering whether to purchase a material or product, pay particular attention to what the MSDS says about the following:
- Health hazard rating. (0-4, with 0 meaning "normal materials" or insignificant and 4 meaning potentially "deadly")
- Normal form of exposure (such as inhalation)
- Signs and symptoms of acute or chronic overexposure
- Whether any of the ingredients are deemed by the government or any reputable organization as being carcinogenic
- Any special spill or handling precautions
- Whether any special ventilation is required (e.g. general, mechanical, local exhaust); whether any protective equipment or clothing is needed
Healthy Schools Partnering with the State of Vermont
The Purchasing and Contract Administration Division of the State of Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services (BGS) is authorized through legislation to cooperate with political subdivisions - public schools, colleges, municipalities.
Services available include writing state purchasing contracts to include schools, and acting as a resource for purchasing concerns.
- Vermont Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program
Envision workshops on environmental health and other technical assistance available to schools
The Vermont Department of Health has conducted a number of Envision program trainings and workshops over the years. Many of the workshops have been in collaboration with the American Lung Association of Vermont, where training has been provided annually to school personnel teams. These training workshops are based upon the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools program..
The Department of Health offers technical help and troubleshooting assistance for anyone in the school community who has concerns about indoor air quality. Call 802-863-7220.
Individuals with symptoms or signs of illnessshould immediately consult with their primary care provider, as well as with the school nurse. Health professionals may wish to consult the EPA’s Guide to Indoor Air Pollution.