There is a growing movement in the early childhood field to establish eco-healthy environments to help safe-guard children and protect natural resources. Providing a comprehensive and sustainable environment for children is part of the greening of child care in our community.
A green child care facility is:
- environmentally friendly
- energy efficient
- practices recycling
- provides healthy snacks
- uses environmentally preferable products to optimize indoor air quality
A green facility also involves children in the greening of their schools, giving them the tools and knowledge they need to lead sustainable lives and promote green practices in their communities.
Why Green Childcare?
The long-term objective is to improve health outcomes for children in preschool through reduced exposure to chemicals and to cultivate an environmental conservation ethic in those settings. In today’s society, preschoolers spend a substantial part of their developmental lives in child care settings where they may become exposed to common chemicals used to protect them from other risks like germs and pests. Often such chemicals are being applied to comply with regulatory standards to achieve a certain degree of disinfection or risk mitigation.
We can look to child care centers as the front line of the effort to protect and foster highly capable children. The potential to make the difference in these settings goes beyond the care, nurturing and teaching that already occurs there. Non-school-aged children (under 6 years old) represent a gap in the guidelines and in the attention being focused on risk reduction. By virtue of their size and the pace of their development such children are at greater risk of negative impacts from chemical exposures. A clear paradox exists in the effort to provide good care to preschoolers since the chemical use/exposures to achieve one set of health objectives has the potential unintended consequence of other negative health impacts.
The World Health Organization estimated that as much as 24 percent of global disease is caused by avoidable environmental exposures, and that the environment significantly affects more than 80 percent of major diseases. More than 33 percent of disease in children under the age of five is caused by environmental exposures[i].
Most U.S. children under age six spend up to 40 hours a week in child care settings.Given that exposures at this age can impair health and developmental success to a significant degree, action to reduce such exposures is imperative.
What is the potential impact?
In Sarasota County, Florida alone 125 day care facilities serve up to 8808 children while101 family home care settings serve up to 1010 more children. Safeguarding children in these settings through sanitation and disinfection practices is an essential function of providers and the regulatory community. It is a critical concern for parents, as is promoting their emotional and intellectual development and care.
There is increasing awareness of the potential for environmental pollutants to affect child health. 80,000 chemicals are in distribution and little is known about their toxicological properties. Know causes exist for fewer than 25% of neurodevelopmental disabilities affecting 3-8% of babies born yearly. Links between chemical exposure and disabilities have been made. The environmentally attributable fraction cost 54.9 billion annually to address. Click on the link to the left and read more about Chemicals and Our Children.