The company that makes a cleaning product used by staff members in Regional School Unit 18 — that can reportedly fade clothing under certain circumstances — has said the substance is not toxic.

District officials are now taking steps to address issues with the product, Vital Oxide.

In a letter to the RSU 18 community Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Carl Gartley explained concerns prompted by the district’s use of the product and outlined a plan to deal with it.

“I have heard in the first few days of school about the issue that has come up with the cleaning products we are using,” Gartley wrote in a letter to parents. “For those of you who are unaware of the issue, there have been a few students who have reported that a piece of clothing has been affected by the product we are cleaning with. I have seen examples of this, so it is an issue.”

Photographs of damaged clothing surfaced on social media channels over the past few days.

Gartley described Vital Oxide as a “green” chemical that contains no bleach and is not supposed to irritate skin. The cleaning product, Gartley wrote, is recommended for schools to use during the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff members spray Vital Oxide on a surface to sanitize it, let it sit a minute, then wipe it off. To disinfect, the process is repeated, but the product sits on a surface for five minutes before removal.

Members of the RSU 18 staff disinfect surfaces every night, according to Gartley.

“After speaking with the company, they have told us that if we use excessive amounts of the product, and it dries before you can wipe it off, it can leave a residue that will fade some fabrics,” Gartley wrote. “This has happened on buses and in the classrooms. The company stresses that it is still not a toxic substance.”

The district plans to provide employees with updated protocols on the proper use of  Vital Oxide. School officials also said they plan to work with the company on recommendations for diluting the chemical for certain uses, and to request a visit by the state safety team.

In letter to parents, Gartley also included an updated Vital Oxide safety sheet.

RSU 18 serves about 2,500 students from Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

The district this fall is welcoming back about 85% of those students five days per week, and responding to safety concerns from its teachers’ union.

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