Caring for Our Childen (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.1 Overall Requirements

5.1.1 Environmental Audit of Site Location

Frequently Asked Questions/CFOC Clarifications


Date: 10/13/2011

Topic & Location:
Chapter 5
Standard Environmental Audit of Site Location

Has the recommendation for minimum distance between a playground site and hazards, such as electrical transformers and high voltage power lines changed since the CFOC, 2nd Ed., which stated 30 feet?

Yes, specific distances are no longer recommended as distances may differ according to local municipalities and states.
Please consult your local ordinance for appropriate information.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/25/2016.


An environmental audit should be conducted before construction of a new building; renovation or occupation of an older building; or after a natural disaster, to properly evaluate and, where necessary, remediate or avoid sites where children’s health could be compromised (1,2,3).

The environmental audit should include assessments of:

  1. Previous uses of the site or nearby sites;
  2. Potential air, soil, and water contamination on child care facility sites and outdoor play spaces;
  3. Potential toxic or hazardous materials in building construction; 
  4. Potential environmental and safety hazards in the community surrounding the site; and 
  5. Potential noise hazards in the community surrounding the site. 

A written environmental audit report that includes any remedial action taken should be kept on file, along with appropriate follow-up assessment measures of noise, air, water and soil quality, and post-remediation to show compliance with local and federal environmental health standards. 

Evaluation of potential health and safety risks associated with the physical site location of a child care facility will identify any remedial action required or whether the site should be avoided if children’s health could be compromised.
Children have higher exposures to some harmful substances than adults due to their unique behavior, such as crawling and hand-to-mouth activity. They also eat, drink, and breathe more than adults do relative to their body size.  In addition, children are much more vulnerable to harm from exposures to contaminated materials than adults because their bodies and organ systems are still developing. Disruption of this development could result in permanent damage with life-long health and developmental consequences (4).
Awareness of remedial action required or sites to avoid will reduce exposure to conditions that cause injury or adversely affect health and development.
Epidemiological studies indicate a relationship between outdoor air pollution and adverse respiratory effects on children (5). Air pollution sources can be stationary, such as nearby dry cleaning or nail salon business, gas stations, or industrial facilities. Proximity to high traffic roadways is an important factor to avoid in siting a child care facility. The previous uses of sites may also have contaminated the air if environmental hazards were not properly remedied.
The soil in play areas should not contain hazardous levels of any toxic chemical or substance. Soil contaminated with toxic materials can poison children. For example, ensuring that soil in play areas is free of dangerous levels of lead helps prevent lead poisoning (6-8).
Research indicates that children exposed to chronic noise pollution experience increased difficulties with learning and cognitive performance, resulting in impaired academic achievement (9).
Potential safety hazards in the community surrounding the site location of a child care facility may include:
  1. Proximity to hazardous industrial air emissions;
  2. Proximity to toxic or hazardous substances in adjacent or nearby property;
  3. Proximity to agricultural plots where industrial pesticides are sprayed;
  4. Proximity to transportation hazards (e.g., local automobile traffic, major roadways, airports, railroads);
  5. Proximity to utilities (e.g., drinking water reservoirs or storage tanks, electrical sub-stations, high-voltage power transmission lines, pressurized gas transmission lines);
  6. Proximity to explosive or flammable products (e.g., propane tanks).

Possible options for reducing exposure to potential safety hazards in the community may include:

  1. Locating the site of a child care facility at a safe distance from the hazard; and/or
  2. Providing a physical barrier to prevent children from being exposed to the safety hazards (e.g., fencing).
Center, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Inspection of Buildings Ensuring Access to Fresh Air Indoors Noise Levels Water Supply Testing of Drinking Water Not From Public System Testing for Lead and Copper Levels in Drinking Water Water Test Results Water Handling and Treatment Equipment Preventing Exposure to Asbestos or Other Friable Materials Testing for Lead
  1. Etzel, R. A., S. J. Balk, eds. 2011. Pediatric environmental health. 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Environmental Health.
  2. Somers, T.S., Harvey, M.L., Rusnak, S.M. 2011. Making child care centers SAFER: A non-regulatory approach to improving child care center siting. Public Health Reports 126(Suppl 1): 34–40. Accessible at:
  3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2014. Siting of school facilities.
  4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Human health risk assessment.
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Environmental Health. 2004. Policy statement: Ambient air pollution: Health hazards to children. Pediatrics 114:1699-1707.
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. The lead-safe certified guide to renovate right.
  7. Burke, P., J. Ryan. 2001. Providing solutions for a better tomorrow: Reducing the risks associated with lead in soil. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  8. Stansfeld, S., Clark, C. 2015. Health effects of noise exposure in children. Curr Envir Health Rpt. 2: 171.
  9. Boothe V. L., D. G. Shendell. 2008. Potential health effects associated with residential proximity to freeways and primary roads: Review of scientific literature, 1999-2006. J Environmental Health 70:33-41, 55-56.
  10. Zhou Y., J. I. Levy. 2007. Factors influencing the spatial extent of mobile source air pollution impacts: A meta-analysis. BMC Public Health 7:89.
  11. Zhua Y., W. C. Hinds, S. Kim, S. Shen, C. Sioutas. 2002. Study of ultrafine particles near a major highway with heavy-duty diesel traffic. Atmospheric Environment 36:4323–35.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/25/2016.