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Study claims cleaning products are contributing to overweight children 20/09/2018

Common household cleaners and disinfectants may be contributing to the risk of children being overweight, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study analysed the gut flora of 757 infants from the general population at age 3-4 months and weight at ages 1 and 3 years, looking at exposure to disinfectants, detergents and eco-friendly products used in the home.

It found in homes that used disinfectant products on a weekly basis, typically multi-surface cleaners, children had an increase of a gut bacteria called Lachnospiraceae.

One of the authors points to research in animals that found higher levels of Lachnospiraceae have been associated with higher body fat and insulin resistance.

In the study, babies in homes where disinfectant cleaners were used frequently, were more likely to have a higher body mass index and be either overweight or obese by age 3. 

Babies living in households that used eco-friendly cleaners had different microbiota and were less likely to be overweight as toddlers.

Researchers say more needs to be done to investigate a possible link to household cleaners. 

Critics say the study fails to look at diet and when foods were introduced and in what amounts.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) has issued a statement in response to the study.

Richard Sedlak, ACI executive vice president, technical & international affairs, said: "We are disappointed at the sensational claims made by the researchers in this study.

“Proper use of household cleaners and disinfectants is an important contributor to infection control and healthy homes. These products are trusted by families to effectively clean, sanitise and disinfect areas of their homes, reducing opportunities for children at these young ages to suffer significant illnesses. This point was one of many overlooked factors in the reported study.

“Based on our scientific and technical review, the assumptions made by the researchers don’t really hold up. There were notable limitations in the research, as reported by the Journal’s editors, along with a study design that ignored all interventions in the children’s lives between 3 months and 3 years of age, and it did not account for ‘the timing of food introduction and child diet'.

“Coming off a deadly flu season in 2017-18, it is a crucial reminder that proper use of EPA-registered disinfectants plays an important role in helping prevent the spread of flu. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises on its website: “Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.”

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Brits still turn their noses up at public toilets 17/09/2018

Laminate manufacturer Formica Group has announced new findings from its in-depth research study into how Brits feel about using toilets outside their own home.

Almost three quarters (71%) of people surveyed don’t like using public toilets. This is because they find them unhygienic (68%), smelly (68%), poorly equipped (54%) and lacking in privacy (41%). Women are more reluctant when it comes to using public toilets than men. While 78% of women are reluctant to use a public loo only 64% of men gave a similar response. Alarmingly, half of all women and 42% of men are commonly ‘caught short’ due to a lack of toilet facilities.

Public toilets that are more earthenware than porcelain throne are also an issue with 67% of UK adults (and three quarters of women) avoiding using toilets because they look dirty. Most brits also take a hands off approach when it comes to public facilities with 70% of women and 63% of men saying they avoid touching surfaces in public toilets or bathrooms in other people’s homes. 

People often encounter dirty loos with 65% of women and half (52%) of men having cleaned up a toilet when the mess was not their own. 

Respondents were asked where they encountered the dirtiest loos. Almost half of women (44%) and over a third of men (38%) consider train stations to have the grubbiest lavatories. Shopping centres were also considered by almost a quarter (24%) of women to have the dirtiest toilets. However, just over one in ten (11%) men thought their workplace had the dirtiest toilets but only 7% of women complained of the same issue. 

It’s no surprise but women are waiting significantly longer to spend a penny than men are, with 21% of women and over 10% of men regularly waiting between three and four minutes to use a toilet. Women find the queues longest at shopping centres (15%) and a quarter of men consider sports stadiums to have the worst queues. Half of women (46%) and 36% of men thought shopping centres needed more washrooms. Trains were the next most cited place where there were not enough toilets with just over a third (36%) of people saying more were required. 

A quarter of women (22%) but only 14% of men have avoided using a toilet due to soundproofing concerns, while the same number feel uncomfortable about the gap between the toilet floor and the side of the cubicle in a lot of public loos.

Consumers are keen to see innovation in public bathrooms with 61% wanting hands free flush, 45% wanting ventilation improvements and a third wanting better hand dryers. A third of us (32%) want better sound proofing, and a similar number (29%) want faster flush filling systems. 

38% of Britons have walked into a toilet meant for the opposite sex because the signage was confusing. 

Joe Bell, UK marketing manager, Formica Group, said: “The results paint a picture of grubby facilities, long queues and substandard conditions. There is a lot that facilities providers can do to make their washrooms more pleasant environments; like using quality materials, such as laminate, that are hygienic and easy to clean, as well as by specifying sheet sizes long enough for floor to ceiling cubicles to provide increased privacy. It’s time to flush away these public perceptions and to restore public confidence in the public toilet.”

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Walmart aims for 'zero waste' to landfills by 2025 11/09/2018

Walmart stores in the United States, Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom have a sustainability goal of zero waste by 2025. The retailer’s 2018 sustainability report says that by the end of last year, Walmart had already diverted 81 per cent of its US waste and 78 per cent of its global waste from landfills.

Walmart defines 'zero waste' as meeting or exceeding Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) business recognition programme requirements.

“In 2005, Walmart began to look at the interplay of waste and usable materials and to seriously examine our own operations, looking for ways to reduce waste of all kinds,” the company’s latest sustainability report says. “Today we have a deeper understanding of the challenges and are engaging suppliers and customers in pursuit of the circular economy.”

Walmart has reduced food waste by various means, including donating unsold food to local food banks and repurposing inedible food through animal feed and composting. For nonfood waste, the retailer has donated or recycled surplus products, switched to reusable packing containers, and recycled secondary packaging.

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Your opinion matters in our survey on Cleaning & Hygiene in the Food Sector! 04/09/2018

Have your say on cleaning and hygiene issues for the food service sector...and bag yourself the chance to win £100 Amazon Vouchers!

Cleaning Matters magazine has launched a survey that asks its readers to share their views and opinions on cleaning and hygiene in the food service sector.

Negative stories relating to food safety, cleaning and hygiene make the news headlines on a regular basis, from virus outbreaks at restaurants and disgusting discoveries by environmental health officers to the growing problem of fatbergs. 

Take our survey to help determine priorities as we work to improve standards in this vital sector.

The survey should only take around ten minutes to complete.

You will be entered into a draw to receive £100 Amazon Vouchers when you complete this survey! 

Click Here to Take the Survey

We thank you for your valuable time and input. All of your answers are confidential.

The findings will be published in a special report on www.cleaning-matters.com in the third quarter of 2018.

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Gastro absence down on last summer – despite Norovirus 24/08/2018

The summer of 2018 saw the Norovirus bug sweep through the UK, but live data, taken from reported absences across more than 185,000 employees in the UK, demonstrates that gastro-related illness is actually down on 2017.

Absence management provider FirstCare crunched its numbers for the months of June and July, and reported that 118,000 fewer days were lost.

This, the company says, is partly down to employers managing their staff healthcare needs more vigilantly while employees were going that “extra mile” to ensure they were fully fit and healthy to make the most of the fantastic weather the UK has witnessed.

Steve Carter, commercial director for FirstCare, said: “Public Health England has said Norovirus data in its laboratories is within normal levels, but has also advised that affected people stay away from GP surgeries and the workplace for 48 hours to stem spreading the highly contagious bug.

He added that this "demonstrates the vigilance and preparation shown by both employers and employees, as we see absence management taken more seriously, with many of our customers stepping up their campaigns on maintaining sanitisation practices and ensuring that infected employees are given enough time to both recover and get back to work infection-free.

“When managed correctly it not only improves staff wellbeing, but also has a positive impact upon morale, and the bottom line.”

In addition, absence from cold and flu like symptoms saw 54,000 fewer days lost for the same months when compared with 2017, while headache absence was up by 203,000.

“Mental health absence has seen the greatest trend swing, however, with June and July accounting for an additional 738,000 days lost across the UK workforce when compared with the same months in 2017.

“June and July traditionally see a rise in absence through mental health as the stress of holidays and managing childcare when school’s out, takes its toll. We have seen a significant rise this summer, but we anticipate this will return to normal levels come September,” Carter added.

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Heatwave behind UK bedbugs plague 20/08/2018

Densely populated British cities are facing a huge increase in bedbug infestations as this summer’s hot weather leads to an explosion in birth rates, experts have warned.

In higher temperatures, the reproduction rate of the bugs shortens from 18-21 days to eight or nine days, David Cain, of extermination company Bed Bugs Limited, told The Observer.

"This insect has developed to be the most efficient and adaptive hunter of human beings that we’ve probably ever had,” said Cain. “If people are fearful of sharks, the answer is to stay out of the water. When it comes to bedbugs, the answer is to be permanently on guard.”

Bedbugs feed off human blood and their bites appear as blotchy red dots on the skin. 

According to experts, the shame and social stigma surrounding the bugs could be compounding the problem as it often results in a reluctance to seek help. 

Cain’s firm has identified hot spots for the bugs in London, including infections running roughly parallel to the Central Line, as well as from Elephant and Castle down to Lewisham and New Cross in the south east, and Brixton to Croydon in the south west.

In his interview with The Observer Cain added: “Bedbugs can happen to anyone. I’ve been into some awesome Knightsbridge apartments where behind the front door there’s a massive bedbug problem. Lots of people equate bedbugs with dirt, but dirt has nothing to do with it.”

In order to avoid inadvertently picking up the bugs and bringing them home, Cain's advice to the public is: never sit down on buses, trains or tubes; check office chairs, plane seats and hotel mattresses before contact; and monitor and vacuum your bed once a month.

People who fear they already have an infestation are advised to strip bedding and wash everything at high temperatures.

Bedbugs – flat, rust-coloured parasites about 5mm long – were common in the UK 100 years ago, but their numbers were greatly reduced by the use of insecticides such as DDT. Now, the bugs have developed resistance to chemical treatments, making the eradication harder.

The increase in bed bug infestations has also been linked to a decline in people regularly airing bedding, as well as the growth in international travel, with many hotels reportedly facing problems with the mites.

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Call for body cameras as street cleaners 'targets for attacks' 16/08/2018

Violent abuse towards street cleaners in Glasgow has led to calls for them to be equipped with body cameras.

Workers have been attacked, had bottles hurled at them, suffered verbal abuse and been subjected to pranks.

A spokesman from trade union GMB’s council cleansing members said: “We’re working with large crowds of drunk people outside kebab and chip shops and they’re flinging things everywhere.

“Unfortunately, our guys are stuck in the middle of it and while we do try to avoid it, it’s our job to clean up the mess, but it makes us easy targets."

He added: “We do have people driving by us, shouting at us and even throwing bottles at our green vans in the past."

Drunk revellers have also pretended to jump on the front of cleansing service vehicles as a joke.

Councillor Paul Carey is now set to suggest body cameras for Glasgow City Council cleansing staff to combat the problem.

When Mr Carey was chairman of City Parking in 2012, he introduced body cameras for traffic wardens, which drastically reduced problems.

Now he plans to take the matter to the Environment, Sustainability and Carbon Reduction City Policy Committee.

The GMB spokesman added: “Body cameras would work because while we work in groups we can be lone workers because we have to be away from the group for five to ten minutes.

“They would be a good kind of deterrent to people who may abuse us."

Trade union UNISON also backs giving the cleansing staff body cameras.

Abuse towards street cleaners is said to have escalated following the bin lorry crash in 2014 where driver Harry Clarke passed out behind the wheel as the vehicle travelled along Queen Street.

Six people died and a further 15 were injured in the accident. A sheriff later ruled it could have been avoided if Clarke had been honest about his medical history when applying for the job.

He was later given a driving ban and told to carry out unpaid work for getting behind the wheel of his car nine months after the bin lorry accident, despite having his licence withdrawn for medical reasons.

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London crowned 'cleanest' place in UK 10/08/2018

An online services marketplace connecting its customers with local professionals has revealed the cleanest places in the UK following a rise in demand for professional cleaners.

Bark.com reviewed its data which revealed that demand for professional cleaners has risen by 29% in the last year, a trend particularly driven by those aged 35 and under.

Internal data found that one in four households now rely on domestic help at least once a fortnight. Cities in the south of England are the most popular locations for household cleaning, with homes in London sending the most requests for household help last year. The capital is closely followed by Reading, Cambridge and Oxford. York is the only northern city included in the top five.

A full breakdown of the research, including the dirtiest places in the UK, can be found here: https://www.bark.com/blog/how-clean-is-your-house-uk-sees-rise-in-demand-for-domestic-cleaner/

The top 10 ‘cleanest’ places in the UK are:

1.      London

2.      Reading

3.      Cambridge

4.      Oxford

5.      York

6.      Birmingham

7.      Bristol

8.      Derby

9.     Edinburgh

10.   Bournemouth

The research also showed that Londoners received domestic help up to three times per week on average last year, with cleaners earning between £8 and £12 per hour for each visit. In comparison, homes in northern cities including Derby, Manchester and Leeds hired cleaners just once a week. Homes in the Midlands typically had cleaners visit once a fortnight.

A separate report compiled for The British Cleaning Council states that the cleaning industry now contributes more than £24 million to the UK economy and employs more 700,000 people.

More than 55,400 cleaners are currently active on Bark.com across the country. Professionals include carpet, oven, window, driveway and steam cleaners as well as gardeners, home clearance providers and end of tenancy cleaners.

Kai Feller, co-founder of Bark.com, said: “In recent years, there has been a change in the way people see domestic services, with millennials in particular throwing off the stigma around paying for professional help in the home. As a result, one in four households in the UK now pays for a regular cleaner.

“As a nation, we are working far longer hours than ever before and combined with busy social lives, it’s only natural that household chores are going to fall by the wayside.

“It’s no surprise that London tops the list of ‘cleanest’ place in the UK given the affluence in the city. It’s also great to see York representing the North in the top five!”

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London cleaners to take unprecedented strike action 06/08/2018

Cleaners working at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are taking unprecedented strike action this week in their fight to be given the London living wage and decent sick pay.

The Guardian reports that on Tuesday 7th August, cleaners will walk out across five different sites for three days. It is being called the first coordinated strike by London's low-paid workforce of predominately migrant cleaners.

The workers hope the strike will pile pressure on the public institutions they claim are refusing to take responsibility for low wages paid to outsourced cleaning staff.

Luis, a cleaner at the Ministry of Justice, said: "Even though we are paid minimum wage, the company still tries to make us work harder and harder, doing more tasks and cleaning more and the company doesn’t send anyone to replace the workers who are sick or absent." 

The strikers are asking for the £10.20 an hour London living wage, which is based on the cost of living in the capital. 

By comparison the National Minimum Wage, confusingly re-labelled the National Living Wage by the Conservative Government in 2016, is £7.83p/h.

The strikers are also hoping to raise the issue of sick pay, which they do not receive for the first three days of absence and which thereafter is statutory sick pay of £18 a day. Finally, they want equality between subcontracted and directly employed staff in terms of holiday entitlements, hours and overtime pay.

Although the cleaners are employed by the facilities company OCS Group, they claim the MoJ is ultimately responsible for their pay.

Workers cleaning Kensington and Chelsea town hall, who are employed by Amey, a private contractor, have the same complaints. They are also paid below the London living wage and are denied sick pay for the first three days.

Mauricio, who works as a cleaner at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said: "It is really hard to survive in London, you have to think about what you can and can’t buy, which bill to pay, it’s very difficult. I wanted to live near my work but it is impossible for me. I live in a room in an apartment with another family, that is how it is here."

As well as this week's strike, cleaners employed by Compass at eight private hospitals and medical centres, run by the health firm Health Care America (HCA)UK, are set to join further coordinated action at the end of August. The HCA UK cleaners are also paid below the London living wage but are said to have more specific complaints.

Mercedes, a cleaner at HCA, said: "We are not just demanding fair pay, we need basic vaccinations, including Hepatitis B and Tetanus, which are being denied to us even though we regularly come in direct contact with bodily fluids including blood. These are luxury hospitals, why can’t we get what we need?"

The strike has been organised by the United Voices of the World union, an independent union formed in 2014. Its founder, Petros Elia, said the MoJ, Kensington and Chelsea council and HCA UK had so far refused to talk to him directly about their demands. “They are taking no responsibility for what happens in their buildings,” he said.

The UVW has already won the living wage, sick pay and holiday pay for cleaners all over London, including at the Daily Mail’s offices, Sotheby’s and the London School of Economics. This will be the first time however that the union has run three simultaneous strikes.

Speaking to The Guardian, the MoJ said: “The MoJ cleaners are valued colleagues. The national living wage has helped deliver the fastest wage growth for the lowest paid in 20 years, and the most recent rise in April meant fulltime workers will earn an extra £600 a year. We strictly enforce the living wage in all our contracts but specific pay and terms are for employers to agree directly with their employees.”

The newspaper also spoke to Kensington and Chelsea Council and Amey.

The council spokesperson said: “These cleaners are employed by Amey and we don’t control what Amey pays their staff, though we do expect them to pay their staff appropriately.”

The Amey spokesperson added: “Our contract with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea predates the voluntary London living wage, so Amey is paid on the basis of the National Minimum Wage.”

OCS Group and HCA UK declined to comment, The Guardian said.

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Refuse worker deaths increase by 50% 06/08/2018

Deaths among refuse workers have shot up 50% according to the latest HSE figures – at the same time staff face 1,000 instances of dangerous driving every single day.

At least 12 people died in the waste sector last year - up from eight the year before, according to the HSE's 'Workplace Fatal Injuries in Great Britain 2018' statistics.

This does not include asbestos related illness, suicide, or people killed because of a workplace activity so the figure is likely to be much higher. 

Meanwhile, Biffa, which handles 10% of household waste collections in the UK, says its staff are reporting around 3,000 incidents of reckless driving per month. This suggests that the waste industry could be putting up with around 30,000 incidents of motorists driving recklessly on pavements every month (or 1000 incidents every day).

Video footage released by Biffa shows refuse workers diving for cover as reckless drivers mount pavements, curbs and grass verges to get round bin lorries making rubbish collections.

The average earnings of the UK’s refuse workers is just over £19,000 a year  – and has plummeted 7.4% in real terms since 2011 (Sources: ONS, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2017; HMT GDP deflator).

Tim Roache, general secretary of GMB – the union for refuse and recycling workers, said: “We all rely on refuse collections to keep our cities, towns and villages clean and safe.

“But refuse workers are literally risking their lives coming into work each day – it’s one of the most dangerous jobs you can do.

“In this sweltering heat, it doesn’t get any easier. It’s an incredibly tough job, but despite the graft they put in, refuse workers have seen their pay plummet in real terms since 2011.

“Our refuse workers desperately need a pay rise, but alongside that they need the police, courts and general public to treat them with the respect they deserve.

“The law of the land should come down hard on anyone putting our members’ lives at risk or threatening their safety.

“They’re just trying to do a job and look after the rest of us.”


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