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When Local 110 member Bobbi-Jo Panciera, a custodial worker at the Winnipeg School Division, couldn’t get information on a cleaner she used, she became concerned.

“I wrote to the employer asking about it, but they sent me something from the manufacturer that described a chemical that bore no resemblance to what I was using,” said Sister Bobbi-Jo.

Increasingly concerned, she asked CUPE’s health and safety branch to look into the chemical. Called 2BE (2-butoxy ethanol), it causes eye, nose and throat irritation and its long-term effects include kidney and liver damage. A neurotoxin, it is also suspected of causing learning disabilities in children and harming reproduction. It never breaks down and can be absorbed into both workers’ and students’ skin from any surface.

She told this to the employer and still nothing was done.

Now also concerned for her son’s safety, she went to the school division’s board of trustees as a parent, but was told she couldn’t speak because she worked there. “They just kept telling me I was wrong,” she said.

But she wasn’t wrong she was dead on, as the school division had to admit after the Canadian Health Organization and Manitoba Medical Association joined the fight against 2BE. It’s now banned and the employer has admitted to fabricating information about it.

Sister Bobbi-Jo still works to ensure schools are safe in Winnipeg and Local 110 is fighting a grievance against the school division.

If your workplace is using cleaners containing 2BE, contact CUPE’s Health and Safety Branch today.