12 Jun Child Care Center Hidden Hazards: Keeping our Kids Safe
When a parent sends their child to a child care center (CCC), there is the expectation that the child is safe from environmental harm. CCCs were not on the radar screen of New Jersey’s environmental consultants until the Kiddie Kollege mercury debacle was discovered in Franklin Township, Gloucester County, NJ in 2006 and the state closed the facility. In the wake of this closure, and in that same year, NJ passed legislation mandating a series of procedures to ensure that all existing and planned CCCs are environmentally safe.
What does this mean for existing CCCs?
Every CCC in New Jersey must conduct an environmental review before the Department of Children and Families Office of Licensing will approve their application to operate. As part of their licensing requirements, the CCC must hire a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) who will undertake, at a minimum, a Preliminary Assessment (PA) to determine if there are any potential Areas of Environmental Concern (AOCs) at the CCC. The PA examines, in part, the prior uses of the land and building (in the case of Kiddie Kollege, the building was a former mercury thermometer manufacturer). Ultimately, the LSRP will issue a Response Action Outcome (RAO) letter once all potential AOCs are addressed. A new CCC license will not be issued without an RAO.
What assurance do parents have that their children are safe?
As stated above, the CCC cannot be licensed unless they have first received an RAO to document environmental compliance. Thus, if your chosen child care center is licensed by the State of New Jersey, you can be certain that proper steps were taken to ensure the absence of environmental hazards at the facility. If you’d like to take it a step further, you may wish to request to see the Response Action Outcome issued for your selected CCC.
What types of potential threats are evaluated by the LSRP?
Outdoor playgrounds and playfields commonly warrant evaluation. Exposed soil on the playgrounds is tested for a wide range of potential contaminants, including pesticides and PCBs. Are children exposed to the soil? Is the soil impacted? These questions are answered and addressed pursuant to NJDEP requirements.
What about other common environmental issues such as lead and asbestos? Is there lead in the drinking water? Are there any asbestos-containing materials on site? Again, each of these and many other issues are examined to ensure that your child is safe.
A special word for those who own or operate child care centers.
ESA has helped many CCCs obtain RAOs. Our team has issued RAOs for CCCs in inner cities, suburbs, and in the most rural parts of the state. Here are some specific, critical questions a child care center operator needs to consider regarding their facility:
- Do you know the various pathways in which children may be exposed to harmful contaminants?
- Does your building harbor any lead-based paint exposure hazards?
- How old are the water pipes? Were the unions secured with lead solder?
- Does your building contain materials made from asbestos?
- Is the grass and soil surrounding the playground free from environmental impacts?
- Was your land formerly a farm where pesticides may have used?
- Are organic vapors from an old underground storage tank impacting the air quality inside your building?
ESA knows how to evaluate CCCs. If you are a parent, or if you are looking to have a child care center licensed, call ESA for an immediate and knowledgeable response.