Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education: Building State Programs.

Author:Wendel, Arthur M.

Editor's Note: As part of our continued effort to highlight innovative approaches to improve the health and environment of communities, the Journal is pleased to publish a bimonthly column from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ATSDR serves the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and diseases related to toxic substances. The purpose of this column is to inform readers of ATSDR's activities and initiatives to better understand the relationship between exposure to hazardous substances in the environment, its impact on human health, and how to protect public health.

The conclusions of this column are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of ATSDR or CDC.

CAPT Arthur Wendel is a regional representative for ATSDR's Region 10 Office based in Seattle, Washington. CAPT Tarah Somers is the regional director for ATSDR's Region 1 Office based in Boston, Massachusetts. CDR Jennifer Freed is a senior environmental health scientist and Dr. Elisha Hall is a behavioral scientist at ATSDR's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.


What would you want to know before your children attend a day care opening in a former industrial building or adjacent to a nail salon? Are children at risk if their new preschool is located on former farmland where lead arsenate pesticide might have been used? What site-related environmental risks are most concerning for children attending early care and education (ECE) facilities?

States involved with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) effort are addressing site-related questions like these to help protect children from harmful environmental exposures.


Young children are more susceptible to harmful effects from exposure to environmental contamination. In 2011, preschoolers spent an average of 33 hours per week in child care (Laughlin, 2013). The extended periods of time that children spend in ECE facilities make it important to reduce harmful exposures.

Newly licensed ECE programs might inadvertently open in places where children and staff could be exposed to environmental contamination, such as contaminated former industrial buildings. Screening proposed locations for indicators of site-related contamination could help prevent harmful exposures to children.

In 2016, ATSDR launched the CSPECE effort to help prevent harmful exposures (ATSDR, 2019a). Several states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New...

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