Healthy, Green and Anti-racist Schools is a CTU Priority

Recently at McClellan Elementary, a steam leak in the building’s boiler system caused lead paint to peel off walls throughout the school. The mayor’s team at CPS assured the school community that there were no health risks from the paint. But when a CTU member tested her room on her own, the peeled paint came back positive for lead. CTU and SEIU 73 members at the school, which has a cluster program, refused to sit idly by as the most vulnerable, Black and Brown students in the system were put at risk.

After McClellan educators held a press conference raising the alarm, the media covered the issue, and CPS finally swung into action, spending $750,000 to address the issue over winter break, with plans for an even more extensive upgrade to the building’s aging HVAC system. They are now being prioritized for a new boiler system at a cost of $4 to $5 million — because when we fight, we win.

Concerns About Sanitation Wipes

What happened at McClellan is a reminder of the critical importance of being on alert for toxins in our schools. When CPS silently switched out wipes at all the schools over break, we started to wonder if something was amiss and if the wipes themselves contained cancer causing agents or other hazards.

Yesterday, Friday 1/13/23, the district informed us that the wipes are safe and non-carcinogenic, based on the district’s review of documents from the manufacturer and a third party evaluator. Engineers were instructed to switch brands from Aktive wipes to Lysol because the
new recommendation from the manufacturer is that Aktive wipes be used with Personal Protective Equipment.

The district explained that skin irritation could be caused due to the concentration of alcohol in Aktive, and they are switching over to Lysol wipes because those wipes do not have that recommendation to be used with PPE, and so are “friendlier” for use in our school communities. We did ask why — if the wipes are not supposed to be used without goggles or latex gloves — that information was just now being provided to educators. We were told that the manufacturer only recently provided that information. Please see the district-provided information at this link.

There have also been cases in which the Aktive buckets developed mold if they had been left open over a prolonged period and outside contaminants had gotten in, so a new product may be better for our classrooms. CTU is looking to confirm the scientific claims about the product with our partners at the AFT.

Thursday lead test giveaway, meeting to learn more about keeping our schools safe and free from toxins

The bottom line, with news about mercury contamination at Lane that was uncovered by a science teacher, lead at McClellan and problematic wipes, is that we know we have to be vigilant and keep ourselves safe. For that reason, please consider attending our event on Thursday event to get your lead test and determine if we need to keep the pressure on CPS to work with CTU to address these systemic facility issues.

Thursday, Jan. 19, 5:30 – 6:30 pm
CTU Center, 1901 W. Carroll Ave.
RSVP to attend

If you are concerned about lead, asbestos or other hazards at our schools and want to fight for greener and healthier school facilities, this event is for you. Also, we will be handing out lead tests to all attendees so you can test your own school buildings. RSVP to attend.


See you on Thursday, January 19!

In solidarity,

Chicago Teachers Union