Children are at greater risk from exposure to contaminants than adults due to their physiology, rapidly developing bodies, unique behaviors (e.g. hand-to-mouth), and dependence on adults to make decisions for them. Additionally, children spend significant time in child care centers where environmental exposures may not be addressed. North Carolina child care licensing general statutes and rules do not address environmental exposures to hazardous waste at child care centers. Child care stakeholders indicated that environmental exposures are typically not considered when opening a child care center and a need exists to inform and educate child care providers and other stakeholders on this issue. To address this issue, we first convened an advisory group to guide program development and serve as a network of experts. This advisory group includes representatives from licensing agencies, organizations providing child care resources, a child care provider, a tribal government, and organizations focused on environmental issues. The group then developed educational materials and an inspection checklist to look for potential chemical hazards in child care centers. These materials address four elements of a child care center siting program: 1) former uses of the site that might have left harmful substances; 2) migration of harmful substances onto the site from nearby sites, infrastructure, or activities; 3) presence of naturally occurring harmful substances; and 4) access to safe drinking water. Next steps include piloting these materials, connecting with local planning and zoning officials, and developing an informational video.
- Jamie Pritchett, Program Coordinator/Health Assessor, NC Department of Health and Human Services