Child care facilities located on sites that used harmful chemicals years ago could pose a health risk to children and pregnant women today. Young children and pregnant women are more vulnerable when exposed to chemicals. The Pennsylvania Department of Welfare and the Pennsylvania Department of Health are working together to ensure that new child care centers are located in healthy environments. The initiative is called Healthy and Green Child Care Siting. The PA Department of Health evaluates the history of a property and determines whether or not hazardous materials are present at a level that could harm the health of children and their caregivers. The activities address the following questions: 

  • How was the child care center’s property used in the past?
  • Is the center located in a former factory or near a site that used harmful chemicals? If yes, do the chemicals pose a current health risk?

Identifying a potential problem does not mean the property isn’t safe. It means that additional investigation is warranted. If needed, the Department of Health will work with the environmental agencies to review how the property was used in the past and whether or not it poses a health risk.

This may include 1) a review of the chemicals used at the site; 2) how they were handled or stored; and 3) if they contaminated the property, whether or not they pose a health risk to children and their caregivers.
Sites or activities that raise concerns include:

  • superfund or other hazardous waste sites
  • former factories, smelters or landfills
  • gas stations, underground storage tanks or machine shops
  • drycleaners, nail salons, auto body or print shops
  • laboratories or funeral homes.

Chemical exposures during child development may contribute to respiratory illnesses, cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, obesity and birth defects. With over 3000 licensed child care centers in Pennsylvania, this program will help prevent harmful exposures to children and staff in child care centers. Providing a healthy environment for children is a goal we all share.

The program is routinely working with new child care center applicants. Child care that is provided in a home is not targeted for this program due to the low risk of exposure to hazardous waste sites in a residential setting. Directors of existing child care centers with questions or concerns about contamination of the center site may ask for help to evaluate the risk. Contact the Pa. Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, Health Assessment Program at 717-787-3350 or email Barbara Allerton atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.."> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">.

Contributed by Barbara Allerton, Epidemiology Research Associate, PA Department of Health