ISSA teams with Penn State's College of Medicine, CUNY Medicine to improve health, the environment in disadvantaged communities in Pennsylvania and New York, funded by US$1.2M grant; project will boost use of EPA's Safer Choice-labeled cleaning products

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December 1, 2023 (press release) –

ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, is proud to announce a partnership with Penn State’s College of Medicine and The City University of New York School of Medicine (CUNY Medicine) to improve human health and the environment in disadvantaged communities across Pennsylvania and New York. The initiative will be funded by a US$1.19 million Pollution Prevention (P2) grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ISSA’s collaboration with Penn State and CUNY Medicine is one of 24 recipients across the country selected by the EPA.

“Healthy buildings, healthy people—this is the vision,” said Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, Senior Director of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC), a Division of ISSA. “The built environment is crucial to human health. In the U.S., indoor pollution is estimated to cause thousands of cancer deaths and hundreds of thousands of respiratory health problems each year. In addition, hundreds of thousands of children each year experience elevated blood levels resulting from their exposure to indoor pollutants.”

The proposed project between ISSA, Penn State, and CUNY Medicine will provide technical assistance to business sectors to develop a university-trade association-stakeholder partnership that increases the knowledge, demand, and use of the EPA’s more than 1,900 Safer Choice labeled products. The provided technical assistance will include hosting focus groups and stakeholder interviews, designing community-based solutions, and offering Safer Choice training to businesses and end-users.

“Cleaning products are household items that we each use in our daily lives. What we may not realize is often products have irritants that not only hurt us but also the environment,” said Penn State College of Medicine professor Rebecca Bascom, MD, MPH. “This project will provide education and technical assistance to businesses to ensure the people using the cleaning products can do their jobs safely, regardless of the language they speak or other socio-economic factors.”

In New York City, CUNY Medicine’s Community Health and Social Medicine (CHASM) Department will adopt a similar multi-pronged partnership approach to first understand what products are being used by professional cleaning staff in office buildings, hospitals, transit hubs, and residential buildings.

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how much we need and rely upon custodial staff to keep all of our businesses, healthcare facilities, and wider environment clean and safe,” said Omrana Pasha-Razzak, MD, Professor and Chair of CHASM. “It is imperative that we also look out for them to ensure that the environments where they work, and the products they use, are non-toxic for their own protection and for that of the environment.”

The EPA funding is part of nearly $16 million in P2 grants made possible by U.S. President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $100 million program investment. The grants enable states to provide businesses with technical assistance to help develop and adopt pollution prevention practices that advance environmental justice in underserved communities while also strengthening economic growth and addressing environmental, public health, and social issues that affect their communities. According to the EPA, there are more than 3,200 disadvantaged communities in Pennsylvania and over 4,900 in New York that could potentially benefit from ISSA’s collaboration with Penn State and CUNY.

“Everyone in the cleaning industry is excited about this project and that we will build trusted university-trade association-stakeholder partnerships that will include over 500 ISSA member companies from across the cleaning industry supply chain, including manufacturers, distributors, and building service contractors,” added Dr. Macgregor-Skinner. “Our project will develop community-designed ‘tool kits’ and training programs in multiple languages to help people make safer choices and advocate for safer cleaning products to help protect the health of businesses, building occupants, and the environment.”

For more information on the EPA’s P2 grant program and a complete list of recipients, visit

About Penn State College of Medicine
Located on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., Penn State College of Medicine boasts a portfolio of more than $150 million in funded research. Projects range from development of artificial organs and advanced diagnostics to groundbreaking cancer treatments and understanding the fundamental causes of disease. Enrolling its first students in 1967, the College of Medicine has more than 1,700 students and trainees in medicine, nursing, the health professions, and biomedical research on its two campuses.

About CUNY Medicine
The City University of New York School of Medicine (CUNY Medicine) was founded in 2016 with a dual mission to increase diversity and representation in medical professions, and address healthcare inequities in New York City and beyond. Located in Harlem, a Health Professional Shortage Area, CUNY Medicine offers an accelerated seven-year BS/MD program to students who are historically underrepresented in medicine. The school grew from the legendary Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program, which, in 1973, opened to offer an accelerated five-year BS/MS degree that prepared students for the final two years of clinical MD training at partner institutions. In 1978, Sophie Davis incorporated an MS in Physician Assistant Studies that had been established at Harlem Hospital in 1973. Carmen Renée Green, MD, was appointed Dean of CUNY Medicine in October 2021. Under her leadership, the CUNY Medicine earned its full five-year LCME accreditation, the longest timeframe possible for a first-time petition. The school has been provisionally accredited since 2015. 

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