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Pesticides | Eco-Healthy Child Care®

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Written by: Eco-healthy Child Care®

Have you ever had ants in your kitchen, or aphids on your houseplants? Are there weeds in your garden or yard that refuse to go away? I can answer yes to these questions and I bet that you can too. However, I am cautious in how I treat these problems, as many of the chemicals that prevent or kill pests, like rodents, insects and weeds, can harm my children’s health. Like the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends, pesticides are only used as a last resort in our home.

As the National Director of the Eco-Healthy Child Care® program, I am aware of the damaging effects pesticides can have on developing children. Products that are classified as pesticides include bug spray, weed killer, insect repellants, and flea and tick collars.
Pesticides are frequently applied inside and outside of homes and child care facilities and can persist indoors for weeks on furniture, toys and other surfaces.  They can linger for years in household dust.

Pesticides used outdoors have been found to make their way into child care facilities and homes.

Research indicates that pesticide levels in indoor air are often higher than those found in outdoor air. The health effects of pesticides vary depending upon the chemical class and formulation of each pesticide, the level and length of exposure, and the age of exposure, with children being more vulnerable. In general, we want to minimize children’s exposure to all pesticides. Exposure to pesticides can cause both short and long term health problems. For example, recent studies have found that exposure to a common pesticide before birth is linked to lower IQ and poorer working memory at age 7.
Think twice before buying or using any chemical pest control products. I recommend that you adopt the ‘Integrated Pest Management’ (IPM) approach. IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive way to control pests and weeds. IPM does not prohibit pesticide use but uses the strategy of ‘least toxic methods first.’ IPM uses techniques that pose the least hazards to people, property, and the environment.

Your state university or extension program may have an IPM program with experts who can help you understand and adopt IPM.  And studies have shown that IPM is both cheaper and more effective than routine pesticide application.
First determine whether the pest is a real or perceived problem. Not every living thing that doesn’t “belong” is a pest that needs to be destroyed by using toxic chemicals. For example, dandelions may be “weeds,” but these plants can be uprooted by hand  -- or left alone. Some proven strategies for eliminating the root causes of pest problems, such as ants, mice and cockroaches, include:

•    Clean up food and drink spills right away
•    Do not leave dishes standing in the sink.
•    Keep trash in a closed container and take it out frequently; don’t let trash pile up.
•    Do not allow children to eat food other than in designated areas (and clean up immediately after the meal or snack)

If you must use chemical pesticides:

Child care providers should:
•    Notify families and staff in advance of the pesticide use and what product(s) will be used.
•    Make certain any pesticide applicator is a licensed professional. Choose a pest management professional (PMP) that practices IPM.

Parents should:
•    Read and follow the label instructions on the pesticides.
•    Ensure that pesticides are not applied when children are present. Follow label instructions for the allotted time between application and children’s exposure.
•    Choose pesticides of low toxicity first (be sure products are EPA registered).
•    Use of baits and traps is preferable over spraying.
•    Ensure baits/traps are not accessible by children.

The Eco-Healthy Child Care® Pesticide Fact Sheet offers lots more tips and resources.
Eco-Healthy Child Care® helps early childhood learning environments to be as healthy, safe and green as possible by reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.

Tags:  children's safety  Eco-Healthy Child Care  pesticides 

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Air Quality

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Updated: Friday, May 30, 2014
Written by: Eco-Healthy Child Care®

Clean air is necessary for good health – both indoors and outdoors.

Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Children also breathe in more air per pound of body weight than do adults.  Exposure to some pollutants can decrease lung function or cause asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and even cancer.  
Did you know that indoor air can be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air?  And since we spend more time indoors than outdoors, the U.S. EPA says that health risks “may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.”  In addition poor ventilation, the presence of dirt, contaminants, moisture, and warmth, which encourage the growth of mold, can trigger allergic reactions and asthma.

Outdoor air pollution can be a risk to children’s health, too.  Sources of pollution include vehicles (cars, buses, trucks), industry, ships, trains. Mother Nature can play a role, such as through wild fires.  Human activities such as smoking and campfires also contribute. Traffic pollutants include possible harmful chemicals in gasoline; diesel exhaust is a carcinogen. Child care facilities located less than 500 feet from major roadways or close to heavy bus traffic may be exposed to excessive levels vehicle exhaust.

Here are some recommendations to improve your indoor air quality:
  • Ventilate - Increase ventilation naturally by opening screened windows and using fans.
  • Prevent mold and mildew- reduce excess moisture and humidity. Fix leaks and clean spills promptly. Use a fan that vents to the outdoors in both bathroom and kitchen. For major water leaks hire a professional company to ensure drying within 24-48 hours.
  • Do not use scented candles, air fresheners or products with fragrances.
  • Never smoke on child care premises, in your car or near children. If you do smoke, wear a smoking jacket and remove it upon entering buildings. Wash hands immediately.
To protect children from outdoor air pollutants:
  • Adopt a no-idling policy. Pollution from idling vehicles can also enter a facility.
  • Know your Air Quality- Check your local air quality index (AQI) daily, usually found in your weather forecast, or visit If the forecast is for a Code Orange day (unhealthy for sensitive populations) or above, minimize strenuous outdoor activities or keep children indoors.
To learn more about Air Quality, check out EHCC’s fact sheets at Many factors affect indoor air quality.  In addition to our Air Quality fact sheet, EHCC fact sheets on pesticides, furniture and carpets, household chemicals, and radon offer additional tips for healthier indoor air. EHCC helps early childhood learning environments to be as healthy, safe and green as possible by reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.  To learn more about this science-based and award-winning program, visit

Tags:  air quality  children's safety  Eco-Healthy Child Care  good health 

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Plastics & Plastic Toys

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 27, 2014

Written by Hester Paul 


Plastic products are found everywhere; child care settings are no exception. Certain plastics contain chemicals that can harm human health and we find that some of these chemicals migrate from the product into our bodies.   (One compound is typically found in 93 percent of the U.S. population and in higher levels in children compared to adults.)

Children are particularly vulnerable to these chemicals for several additional reasons. Their systems and organs are still developing.  Young children’s typical behavior includes inserting plastic objects into their mouths.

Two compounds of special concern— phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA)—have been found in baby bottles, sippy cups, teething rings and toys.
Phthalates (thay-lates) are a class of chemicals that are used to soften plastics, such as PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), bind fragrances in products and act as solvents and fixatives, such as nail polishes. Children often inhale fragrances, chew on plastic toys and absorb products (lotions, shampoos) through their skin. Exposure to phthalates is linked to harmful health effects, including developmental and reproductive problems, asthma, preterm birth, low sperm count, genital malfunction, hormone disruption, premature puberty and development of some cancers.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone disrupter that is used to harden some plastics. BPA can be found in baby bottles, water bottles, canned food liners and sippy cups. We are exposed to BPA primarily through ingestion, as it travels to the body through food and drink containers. Adverse health effects may include breast cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, low sperm count, hyperactivity and aggressiveness.

As the National Director of the Eco-Healthy Child Care® (EHCC) program and a parent of two young children, I take the time to ensure that my children are not exposed to unsafe plastics.

Follow these EHCC suggestions to protect the children you care for:

1.    Avoid plastics with recycling codes #3, #6, #7 (unless the #7 product is also labeled "BPA free”).
2.    Purchase baby bottles and sippy cups labeled "BPA free” or glass options (newer baby bottles are supposed to be BPA free under Federal law).
3.    Never heat or microwave food or drink in any plastic containers, as leaching of toxic chemicals from plastic to food or liquid may occur. Use a paper towel instead of plastic wrap to cover food in the microwave.
4.    Only buy "new” plastic toys for infants and toddlers that are labeled "phthalate-free” or "PVC-free.”
5.    Discard all plastic food containers with scratches, especially baby bottles, sippy cups and infant feeding plates and cups.

To learn more about reducing your exposure to unsafe plastics, click here.

EHCC helps early childhood learning environments to be as healthy, safe and green as possible by reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.

Tags:  child care settings  children's safety  plastic toys  plastics 

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