Child-care sites, health threats

From Philadelphia, Pa., at a meeting of the American Public Health Association

Federal agencies have completed the first national study of lead, pesticides, and allergens in U.S. child-care facilities.

Joey Y. Zhou of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and his colleagues sampled dust, play-yard soil, and residues on windowsills and other surfaces at 168 sites that make up a representative sample of the nearly 100,000 licensed child-care centers in the United States.

One in every six sites had detectable amounts of a common allergen produced by cockroaches, and about one in four had one or both of the dust-mite allergens the researchers looked for. Nearly half the sites at which 15 percent or more of the children suffer from allergies had detectable amounts of the cockroach allergen.

Environmental lead measurements exceeded EPA standards at 14 percent of the sites. While that seems high, it is “quite a bit better” than the 27 percent rate for hazardous lead concentrations found in an earlier survey of U.S. housing, said Peter Ashley of HUD, who presented the new study’s preliminary findings.

The pesticide data are taking longer to analyze and quantify, but Ashley reported that tests identified at least 24 pesticides at the sites the team sampled.


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