Environmental Quality in California Child Care

This project includes both research and outreach activities to reduce chemical exposures and improve environmental quality in child care settings in California, with the ultimate goal of protecting children’s health.

Young children are more vulnerable to environmental exposures than older children and adults. Many young children spend considerable time in child care and preschools, yet little is known about what chemical and environmental exposures they may be receiving in these settings.

The Environmental Quality in California Child Care Research and Outreach Program aims to:

  • Identify pest problems and pest management practices in California’s licensed child care centers,
  • Measure the levels of environmental contaminants that are found in child care facilities,
  • Evaluate the potential health risk these exposures may pose,
  • Develop inexpensive strategies for child care providers to reduce exposures to children in their facilities.

Environmental Quality in California Child Care Activities:

Study: Environmental Exposures in Child Care Facilities

Study: Pest Management and Pesticide Use in Child Care Centers

Integrated Pest Management Toolkit

Workshops and Training for Child Care Providers

Green Cleaning Toolkit

Chemicals in Children’s Markers

Why Study Child Care Centers?

A. Children are vulnerable to environmental exposures

  • Credit: California Child Care Resource and Referral Network

    Children have higher exposures because they breathe more air, eat more food, and drink more water per unit of body weight compared to adults.

  • Because children exhibit exploratory behaviors that place them in direct contact with contaminated surfaces, they are likely to be exposed to any contaminants present.
  • They are also less developed immunologically, physiologically, and neurologically and therefore may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of chemicals and toxins.

B. Children spend a great deal of time in child care settings

  • Many infants and young children spend as much as 10 hours per day, 5 days per week, in child care.
  • Nationally, 13 million children, or 65% of all U.S. children, spend some portion of the day in child care.
  • In California, approximately 1.1 million children five years or younger attend child care.
  • Approximately 146,000 staff work 40 hours or more per week in California child care facilities.
  • Licensed child care in California includes infant day care, child care centers, preschools and nursery schools; facilities are varied and can include home-based child care, privately-run centers, programs run by government (e.g., Head Start), school districts, or religious institutions; these facilities are located in a variety of building types (e.g., houses, schools, private commercial buildings, and portable classrooms).

C. Child care environments contain substances that can be dangerous for children

  • Recent studies indicate that child care environments may contain lead, pesticides, allergens, volatile organic chemicals from cleaning agents and sanitizers, and other contaminants that might be hazardous to children’s health.


  • We have worked closely with the California Childcare Health Program to develop our Environmental Quality in California Child Care research and outreach program.
Funded By: Duration: Study Contact:
  • The California Air Resources Board (CARB)
  • The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR)
  • The National Institute for Environmental  Health Sciences (NIEHS)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
2008-2012, ongoing Asa Bradman, PhD
Director, Environmental Quality in California Childcare Research and Outreach Program
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