Children's Environmental Health Network
EHCC FAQ on Siting of Child Care Facilities

 

Q.  What are the requirements to assure that child care centers are not located on sites that contain harmful chemicals?

Q.  Are there resources that can help in siting a child care facility?

Q.  Why is the siting of child care facilities an issue?

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Q.  What are the requirements to assure that child care centers are not located on sites that contain harmful chemicals?

A. No single national standard exists for assuring that a child care facility is not located on a site that could harm children due to adjoining or previous uses. Child care siting requirements would usually be handled at the state or local level and would vary according to jurisdiction.  However, child care centers, while they are businesses, should not be treated as typical enterprises in terms of siting and zoning.

The premier guidance for child care center health and safety is Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Out-of-Home Child Care, a collaborative publication from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. It provides voluntary guidance for child care center safety, including a section on conducting an environmental audit.

No data are readily available to show which and how many states have incorporated this type of language in their child care center licensing regulations.[i]

  

Q.  Why is the siting of child care facilities an issue?

A. Several alarming experiences have illustrated that relying on existing regulations, such as a community’s zoning code, does not assure that we are protecting children in considering locations of child care facilities. For example, a child care center in New Jersey was located in a former warehouse that was found to be heavily contaminated with mercury.

According to one report on child care siting, “Sites that raise concerns include, but are not limited to, dry cleaners, smelters, mills, factories, gas stations, auto repair shops, landfills, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or state hazardous waste sites, rifle ranges, leaking underground storage tanks, and illegal drug labs. Vacant lots are also suspect areas that may be contaminated from previous use or illegal dumping activities.  However, this issue is not an urban-only problem. “Pristine” land, such as former orchards, agricultural land, or buildings on agricultural land, may also be contaminated with pesticides or other chemicals.” [ii]

 

Q.  Are there resources that can help in siting a child care facility?

A. One state’s program on siting child care centers provides useful resources for other jurisdictions.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) Environmental and Occupational Health Assessment Program (EOHA) partnered with its Child Day Care Licensing Program in 2007 to create the Screening Assessment for Environmental Risk (SAFER) Program.

The SAFER program offers a proactive approach that provides guidance in siting of new child care facilities or to identify potential hazards in those that already exist. Their materials can be downloaded below.

  • SAFER protocol --General Referral Form, Environmental Issues Referral Form for Inspections of Day Care Centers and Group Day Care Homes, Property History Questions for Child Day Care Center and Group Day Care Home Applicants (11 pages)
  • Environmental Issues Referral Form (1 page)
  • Property History Questions form (2 pages)

These guidelines are an important starting point. Additionally, the Network’s scientific advisors recommend that on the list of adjacent or past land uses that are of concern (eg. copy/print shop, dry cleaner, nail salon), the site’s use by a pesticide applicator or a pesticide storage or distribution center should be added to the list.

 

For more information on this program, visit www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3140&q=456216 or e-mail sharee.rusnak at ct.gov.

 


[i] Somers T, Harvey M, Major Rusnak S, Public Health Reports, 2011 Supplement 1, Volume 126, p 34-40.

 

[ii] Somers T, Harvey M, Major Rusnak S, Public Health Reports, 2011 Supplement 1, Volume 126, p 34-40.

 

 

 


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