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Reducing children’s risk of being exposed to dangerous chemicals during early care and education

CSPECE logo

Choose Safe Places for Early Child Care and Education (CSPECE) was created to assist child care operators with selecting locations for their early care and education centers (ECE) to keep students, staff and other occupants from coming in contact with harmful chemicals.

Why is this important?

  • A new ECE program might open in a building that was previously a chemical facility or next door to a business using harmful chemicals.
  • This can put staff and children, who are more sensitive to the effects of chemicals, at risk of health problems.
Child playing
Child playing

Why are infants and children more at risk?

Differences in their bodies:

  • Children breathe more air, eat more food and drink more liquids per body weight than adults.
  • Children break down and remove harmful chemicals at a slower rate than adults.
  • Children have less protection from chemicals because their immune systems are still developing.
  • Children are more likely to breathe in dust and gases that are lower to the ground.
  • Contact with harmful chemicals during early life stages can disrupt cognitive development.
  • If an infant or toddler consumes food or liquids that contain harmful chemicals, they will receive a more significant exposure relative to their size when compared with adults.
  • Chemicals may pass to a child when breast-feeding.
  • Behaviors:

  • Children are often placed on the ground, putting them in reach of pesticides, chemical residues and cleaning solutions.
  • Because of their curiosity and need to explore, they might put dirt and other things in their mouths.

Visit www.atsdr.cdc.gov/features/pehsu/index.html for more information.

What is the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) doing to keep ECE operators, staff, students and other occupants safe?

LDH is collaborating with state and local agencies and other partners to educate child care operators about considerations before selecting a location for their early care and education centers (ECE).

LDH is offering to assist child care operators with researching the history of the property and obtaining other pertinent information to help them determine where to locate their business.

Child playing

LDH staff can assist child care operators with:

  • Identifying and accessing resources to assist with property searches
  • Conducting property searches
  • Obtaining information on chemicals found near ECEs
  • Learning how to prevent contact with harmful chemicals

Additionally, LDH is offering to educate child care providers and the parents of ECE students about trainings and resources to keep their families safe. Email LDH at cspece@la.gov or call them at 1-888-293-7020 to learn more. Together, we can prevent ECE occupants and their families from coming in contact with harmful chemicals!

Elements of Safe Early Care and Education Siting

There are 4 things to consider before choosing a location for a new childcare facility:

  1. Former use of the site
  2. Nearby sites and nearby activities
  3. Naturally occurring contamination
  4. Safe Drinking Water

Former use of the site

Review documents such as land records, databases, or other resources related to current and prior ownership of the property to find out whether any businesses on the property could have used or disposed of hazardous contaminants.

Some locations of possible concern include:

  • Dry cleaners
  • Gas stations
  • Auto repair shops
  • Hair/ nail salons
  • Funeral homes
  • Industrial/ manufacturing factories
  • Former agricultural sites.

Visit the site to look for evidence that the potential location of the facility may contain or have contained hazardous substances.

Examples of items on the property to look for include:

  • Metal drums or barrels
  • Old cars or vehicle parts
  • Discarded white goods (i.e., old appliances)
  • Construction and demolition debris
  • Barns and farm machinery/ equipment.

The construction of the building may also give you clues as to the prior use, such as a loading dock, large delivery doors, or old brick construction resembling a factory.

Nearby sites and nearby activities

Visit the site or do a windshield tour (observing the area from a car) to see whether there are properties surrounding the site that might be using hazardous materials that could affect the childcare. Some nearby or adjacent properties of concern include gas stations, auto repair shops, dry cleaners, print shops, funeral homes, hair/ nail salons, and landfills/ dumps. It is possible for hazardous contaminants from these properties to move to other surrounding properties.

Naturally occurring contamination

Find out whether any areas of naturally occurring contamination (such as arsenic in water, radon in buildings, or asbestos in soil) could affect the proposed day care program site. Get assistance with finding areas of naturally occurring contamination from parish or local health departments, state or county environmental agencies, or the U.S. Geological Survey.

Safe Drinking Water

It is important to know the type of water system used by the childcare facility. If the water comes from a private system (a private well or cistern), it should be treated as recommended by the provider/ manufacturer and the well should be tested at regular intervals. For more information on private wells, visit the Louisiana Well Owner Network. If the water comes from a public water system you can obtain a copy of your water system’s “Consumer Confidence Report” from your local health department.

Safe Siting Survey

SEET has developed a questionnaire for childcare providers to use when considering a location for their facility. This questionnaire may not be a comprehensive list of potential hazards that you may find on or near your property but should serve as a starting point when selecting a location. All completed questionnaires will be sent to SEET for review. Upon review of the completed questionnaire a member of our staff may contact you to provide additional guidance. To access the questionnaire, click here.

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