Environmental Health Guide for Parents and Child Care Providers

kids at a table drawing with a woman caregiver

Children interact with our environment much differently than adults do and continue to grow and develop, which is why children’s environmental health is so important. Things in our environment can also affect a pregnant woman's health and the health of her baby. This Environmental Health Guide is designed to:

  • Help parents and expecting parents become aware of potential environmental hazards that could harm their child’s health.
  • Give child care providers guidance on environmental health regulations for their child care facilities.
Drinking Water

Harmful contaminants may be found in both public and private drinking water supplies that can cause significant health risks to babies and children. Testing your drinking water is important to make sure it is free of these contaminants.

Learn more about drinking water contaminants and their health effects

Parents and Expecting Parents
The Health Department recommends private well owners test their water regularly.

Child Care Providers
Child care licensure regulations now include public and private drinking water testing requirements. For more information about these regulations, contact the Vermont Department for Children and Families at 800-649-2642.

Here is information about testing your child care facility for drinking water contaminants:

Lead Hazards in the Home and Child Care Facility

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can be found in paint and drinking water and may cause serious and permanent health problems. Children and pregnant women are at special risk for lead poisoning. There is no safe level of lead in the body, but lead poisoning can be prevented.

Learn more about lead hazards and how to prevent lead poisoning

Parents and Expecting Parents
All children should be tested for lead at ages 1 and 2. Talk to your child’s health care provider about testing your child for lead through a blood test. Depending on the result, the health care provider may recommend additional testing. Learn more about lead testing

In pregnant women, lead can increase the risk of miscarriage and cause babies to be born too early, too small, or with learning or behavior problems.

Children, pregnant women and adults can be exposed to lead during renovation projects. Learn how to stay safe during home renovation projects

Child Care Providers
The Health Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have specific lead-based paint-related requirements for all child care facilities built before 1978. In Vermont, Essential Maintenance Practices (EMPs) are required for all pre-1978 child care facilities. EMPs are relatively inexpensive maintenance activities that property owners or property managers must do to reduce lead-based paint hazards and inspect the property for deteriorated (chipping and peeling) lead-based paint. See the EMP guide for child care facilities

Chemicals and Other Air Pollutants in the Home

Chemicals and other air pollutants can enter the home from the natural environment, hobbies, household cleaning and personal care products, and even from bacteria, pet dander, dust mites or roaches. 

Breathing in air pollutants in the home can lead to allergic and asthmatic reactions, infections and other health problems that involve the lungs, nose and throat. Babies and young children may be especially sensitive, in part because their organs and immune systems are not fully developed.

Learn more about indoor air quality

Here is information about how to create a healthy indoor air environment in your home or child care facility:

School Health

Children spend a significant amount of time at school, which is why it is important to maintain a healthy school environment, both inside and outside the school. Vermont offers programs and resources to help keep our schools safe and healthy.

Learn more about school environmental health
Learn more about school health

Children’s Toys and Products

Children’s productssuch as toys, furniture, cosmetics, teethers and feeding bottles—may contain many chemicals. Parents, caregivers and child care providers are encouraged to learn more about the chemicals that are in these products.

The State of Vermont requires manufacturers to report information about their use of chemicals in children’s products designated by the State as Chemicals of High Concern to Children.

Learn more about the Chemical Disclosure Program for Children’s Products

Recreational Water Safety

Being aware of water conditions and adopting safe practices with your children while in and around recreational waters is very important. Vermont’s lakes, ponds, streams and rivers may contain bacteria that can make you sick.

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are naturally found in fresh water in the U.S. and in Lake Champlain and other Vermont waters. Some types of cyanobacteria can release natural toxins or poisons (called cyanotoxins) into the water, especially when they die and break down.

Swimming or wading in water with cyanobacteria may cause minor skin rashes, sore throats, diarrhea, stomach problems, or more serious health problems. Children are at increased risk of getting sick since they are more likely to swallow water when swimming and playing than adults.

Learn more about cyanobacteria

Here is information about recreational water safety:

Asbestos

Asbestos is a fiber that has been used in building materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. If these materials are disturbed or damaged in any waysuch as when renovating or demolishing a building—asbestos fibers can be released into the air and breathed in. Exposure to asbestos fibers increases the risk of developing health effects—such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Learn more about how to protect your family from exposure to asbestos

Parents and Expecting Parents
You should assume that asbestos-containing materials are in your home. They are not dangerous unless they are damaged or disturbed in a way that creates dust. Use caution when doing home renovation projects. Learn how to stay safe during home renovation projects

Child Care Providers
Child care providers seeking licensure are required to hire a Vermont-certified Asbestos Inspector Contractor to conduct a site inspection for asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). All ACMs must be removed and disposed of before any renovation or demolition.

Here are more resources for child care providers who have facilities in schools:

more resources