When the school custodian became sick with breathing problems after cleaning, an environmentally conscious student took action, and project “Soap Busters” was born.
“The idea came to mind when the school janitor was cleaning marker stains off of tables,” said Tristan Berno, a Grade 7 student at St Michael’s Elementary in East Trail.
“She could barely breathe everyday when she went home, and some students also had breathing problems from the chemicals in the cleaners.”
Berno said his first thought was, that there must be a better soap for the school, especially because no one knew what chemicals were in the products that the custodian was using.
So, he started a science project, aptly named “Soap Busters.”
First, Berno researched the ingredients listed on the product labels of the three commercial cleaning products that were being used in the school.
Next, to carry out the experiment, Berno measured and taped a desk top into three sections, then wrote five lines on the surface in permanent marker.
Over a three day period, he sprayed each black line with cleaner, and using equal pressure, wiped over the ink marks with a cloth.
Each day, he documented his experiment with a series of pictures as evidence to back up his final conclusions.
“There were two soaps that worked the same, but one had huge side effects listed because of the toxins in it,” said Berno.
“The chemicals can stay in the air for hours, even days, after they are sprayed,” he explained.
“So using something like that everyday will affect a person’s health.”
Berno’s conclusion to the experiment is that the green soap was the clear winner, it was an effective cleaner but not toxic to the environment.
Now, the green choice is the soap that the school uses.
“Those chemicals can be toxic to students as well, so the greener choice is best.”
Berno entered his experiment and results into the West Kootenay Regional Science Fair which took place in Castlegar last month.
Along with two students from Trafalgar Middle School in Nelson, he was recognized for the unique and clever way he displayed his knowledge of science, and has advanced to the Canada Wide Science Fair in Lethbridge on May 11.
Recently, Berno has also begun “Part B” of the science project, which involves creating his own effective, “green” cleaner.
“I’ve just done the experiment part and I am getting to the results part now,” he said.
“So far we are surprised with the results, and its good for people to know that using a green cleaner has the same effect on stains as the more toxic ones.”