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Four Steps to Healthier Childcare PDF Print E-mail

ImageMaking safe the places that care for our children is simple. Toxics consultant, Jo Immig, outlines an easy, four-stage process for healthier childcare centres...

Itís now widely known that childrenís health is more at risk from exposure to chemicals than adults. It is essential, therefore, to ensure their environments are as chemical-free as possible. Because children spend a lot of time at school and in childcare, these environments need special attention.

Hazardous chemicals can come from many sources. Areas commonly requiring better management in schools and childcare centres include:

  • cleaning products and processes
  • pest management
  • maintenance (painting, renovations etc)
  • building materials
  • garden chemicals
  • personal care products (sunscreen, insect repellents, perfume etc)
  • procurement policy.

To get an overall picture of the sources of hazardous chemicals itís useful to carry out a simple chemical hazards audit. The audit will help you to pinpoint key chemical hazards so you can prioritise your actions for creating a healthier environment. 

Four steps to creating healthier schools and childcare environments:

  1. Carry out a chemical hazards audit to identify key areas of concern and priorites for improvement. Cleaning and pest management, for example, are generally areas where improvements can be made
  2. Ensure you are meeting all policy, accreditation and legislative responsibilities regarding the purchase, use, storage and disposal of chemical products. Always use chemical products according to label directions and safety information.
  3. Phase out high-risk chemical products and processes and replace them with safer, eco-friendly types. Set goals and targets for continuous improvement of your planning cycles.
  4. Develop a Childrenís Environmental Health Policy. Creating and maintaining a healthy environment is an on-going job. Responsibilities need to be shared and well communicated. Developing a policy to focus on the task and can be an excellent communication tool for staff, parents and suppliers.


The US-based Childrenís Health and Environmental Network is a multi-disciplinary organisation the mission of which is to protect the foetus and the child from environmental health hazards and to promote a healthy environment. They currently have a Policy Project, to ensure policies to protect children become part of core requirements.

The Australian-based National Toxics Network conducts campaigns in the areas of chemical awareness in schools and childrenís environmental health which aim to ensure Australia develops and implements policies in line with international initiatives calling for the environmental rights of children to be recognised to better protect them from global chemical hazards.

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