States Key to Protecting Children from Environmental Exposures

January 2015
(Washington) Protecting children from environmental exposures in child care facilities is a critical need. A new report by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) and the Children’s Environmental Health Network examines state policies and programs that address key environmental exposures in the child care setting and highlights notable examples that can help states strengthen their existing policies.

State policy plays a vital role in improving environmental quality in child care facilities. The report, Reducing Environmental Exposures in Child Care Facilities: A Review of State Policy, presents an overview of such laws and regulations across the United States. Researchers focused on several important indoor environmental quality issues that are associated with a range of health impacts. Separate chapters of the report review state policies governing environmental tobacco smoke, radon, carbon monoxide, mold, ventilation, pesticides, lead-based paint, asbestos, and other exposures in the child care context. 

“Addressing these issues in the child care setting is especially important since it is now widely understood that children are not simply little adults when it comes to environmental exposures,” says CEHN Executive Director Nsedu Obot Witherspoon. “Advances in scientific research have sharpened our understanding of how environmental exposures in the early years of life can affect children’s health and development immediately and over time.”

The report discusses various areas of state policy, including the child care laws and regulations that establish standards for state-licensed child care providers. “We found that there has been progress in establishing policies to protect children, but significant gaps remain,” says Tobie Bernstein, Senior Attorney and Director of ELI’s Indoor Environments and Green Buildings Program. “Most states can benefit from revisiting their policies and identifying opportunities for incorporating key environmental health measures. For most of the indoor environmental quality issues we looked at, examples from other states provide a helpful starting point.”

In addition to illuminating the status of policy, the report describes state initiatives to provide education, technical assistance, and incentives to child care providers for addressing environmental health. “There are well-established approaches for preventing and reducing key indoor environmental exposures,” says Bernstein. “State policies and programs are important tools for institutionalizing best practices and assisting child care providers with limited resources to put these practices in place.”

The research was supported by a grant from The Kresge Foundation.

Reducing Environmental Exposures in Child Care Facilities: A Review of State Policy is available as a free download here.

Contact Brett Kitchen or Tobie Bernstein


The Children’s Environmental Health Network is a national multi-disciplinary organization whose mission is to protect the developing child from environmental health hazards and promote a healthier environment.