Choose Safe Places
The Health and Risk Assessment Program (HRAP) within the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) has created a program focused on helping prospective owners and operators choose locations for child care facilities that are safe from potential environmental hazards.
Children are more sensitive to toxic chemicals than adults and being exposed to hazardous contaminants can have lifelong health effects. Because many children spend a majority of their time during the week in a child care center, it is important to be proactive about keeping these environments safe from harmful substances.
Our team partners with professionals from the environmental health sciences, child care licensing, and early care and education to help prevent childhood exposure to harmful chemicals and contaminants.
Identifying and addressing potential environmental site hazards, especially before a child care program is licensed, can prevent and reduce harmful exposures to the children in your care and help ensure the environment where they grow, learn, and play is safe.
As you are deciding on the future location for your child care center, the Missouri HRAP team is available to assist you in determining whether the future property or well water has environmental contaminants of concern. Participation in the program is voluntary and our services are free.
How to participate:
- Begin by filling out the short property questionnaire here.
- Submit the form electronically or print it and send by mail to the address listed at the bottom of the form.
- Our team will review your responses, evaluate data, and provide you a report with our findings and make recommendations for your property.
Four Key Elements to Consider Before Choosing a Location for a New Child Care Facility
Former Use of the Site
When businesses such as factories, dry cleaners or warehouses close, contaminants from past operations may be left behind in the air, soil and water. These left over contaminants may pose potential health risks if people are exposed. Contaminants may linger long after the businesses have stopped operating which may impact future use of the property.
Knowing the history of a site can help identify potential contaminants. It is important to note that just because a property used hazardous chemicals in the past does not mean it is not suitable for a child care center. Rather, the history should be looked at further to determine what impacts that former use may have. For example, lead is a common contaminant in older homes and buildings because lead paint was frequently used until it was banned in 1978.
Missouri Department of Natural Resources Hazardous Waste Map - (E-Start)
US EPA superfund site search
Local city or county government officials - Tax or geographic information system (GIS) offices may have property records to identify past site use
EPA Cleanups in My Community
Nearby Sites and Activities
Contaminants from businesses, highways, and railroads can travel by air, soil and water to neighboring properties. Therefore, it is important to observe businesses near the site chosen for the child care location. When on the property, look around to see if there are any nearby sites or activities that may create environmental exposures. Some businesses of interest may include, but are not limited to; hazardous waste sites, dry cleaners, nail salons or gas stations.
Additionally, there are some chemicals that evaporate into gases after they are released that travel through soil and groundwater. The contaminated vapors may enter the interior of homes or buildings through foundation cracks or other pathways. In some instances, contaminated vapors can accumulate inside a building at high enough levels to pose a risk of adverse health effects.
US EPA Website for info on Vapor Intrusion
ATSDR Fact Sheet for Vapor Intrusion
EPA My Environment Mapper
Naturally Occurring Substances
Certain chemicals occur naturally in the earth and can pose potential health risks. For example, radon can seep into buildings from soil under the foundation and accumulate in indoor air. Arsenic and other naturally occurring metals may be found in soil and drinking water.
DHSS Radon program - Information on how to test for radon, ordering test kits, mitigation
DHSS Environmental Public Health Tracking – Radon information and testing data
Safe Drinking Water
Drinking water comes from either a public water supply or a private well. Lead, nitrates, and bacteria are common water contaminants that can affect children’s health.
Public water systems are regulated to ensure water is safe to drink. Consumer Confidence Reports are available through the Department of Natural Resources’ Water Protection Program to help consumers learn more about their drinking water.
It is recommended that well owners test their private drinking water wells annually to ensure water is safe for consumption. The MDHSS Private Drinking Water Program assists with testing through the State Public Health Laboratory for certain contaminants and can assist you with any questions you have.
DHSS Private Drinking Water Program- Information on maintaining a private well, testing and potential well water contaminants.
DNR Public Drinking Water Program - Information on drinking water standards, consumer confidence reports, boil orders and more.
Disclaimer: Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education is a voluntary program that owners/operators of childcare facilities may choose to participate in. The above is provided as general guidance only and to increase overall safety awareness.
This information is not intended to constitute legal or medical advice and you should use it at your own risk. The user should seek the advice of appropriate professionals when making decisions regarding environmental conditions. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) accepts no responsibility or liability for damages arising from use of this information. DHSS does not make any warranty, express or implied; assume any legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information herein; represent that its use would not infringe privately owned rights; nor assume any liability with respect to the use of, or for damages resulting from the use of any information, method or process disclosed in this publication.
- Choose Safe Places Safe Siting Infographic
- MDHSS Hazardous Substances and Sites
- Office of Childhood
- CDC Early Care and Education Portal
- NCSL Environmental Concerns at Childcare Facilities
- Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN)
- Contact us
This program was developed in partnership with the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry as part of a national initiative.