Environmental Exposures in the Context of Child Care

Source: Nate Seltenrich, Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 121, Issue 5, May 2013

Research has proven that infants and toddlers, who spend more time on the floor and experience the world with their hands and mouths, are not merely in closer contact with many indoor pollutants2 but also more sensitive to them. Yet environmental health standards in child care settings nationwide—which can include not just centers but also private homes, workplaces, universities, and places of worship—still lag behind those of schools, where children are older, larger, and somewhat less susceptible to environmental exposures. Unlike with more uniformly regulated schools, child care licensing, permitting, and oversight occur on a variety of levels, resulting in a fractured regulatory landscape.

A host of other factors, many of them specific to child care, contribute to the challenge. For example, licensing guidelines and quality rating systems—which often emphasize infection control and cleanliness—can steer centers toward bleach or other potentially toxic sanitizers and disinfectants that are now recognized as asthma triggers, says Ellen Dektar of the Alameda County Childcare Planning Council…