Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

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

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.9 Prevention and Management of Toxic Substances Construction and Remodeling

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/17/2016.

Construction, remodeling, painting, or alterations of structures during child care operations should be isolated from areas where children are present and done in a manner that will prevent hazards or unsafe conditions (such as fumes, dust, safety, and fire hazards).

Low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paints and materials should be used in child care areas. Painted areas should be ventilated until they are fully dry and odor-free before children are permitted to occupy them.

Children should be protected from activities and equipment associated with construction and renovation of the facility that may cause injury or illness.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Some organic compounds can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include eye irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeds, fatigue, and dizziness (1).

Ideally, construction and renovation work should be done when the facility is not in operation and when there are no children present. Many facilities arrange to schedule such work on weekends. If this is not possible, temporary barriers can be constructed to restrict access of children to those areas under construction. A plastic vapor barrier sheet could be temporarily hung to prevent dust and fumes from drifting into those areas where children are present. However, the minimum number of egress/escape paths should be maintained without compromise during the rehabilitation work.

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require persons performing renovation, repair, and painting activities in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 to give a renovation-specific lead hazard information pamphlet to the owners and occupants of the building. Persons performing these activities in child care facilities and schools must also provide general information about the renovation to the parents/guardians of children using the facility. The renovation-specific pamphlet, called The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right, is available at (2).

EPA regulations require training and certification of renovation contractors and building maintenance personnel performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978. They are required to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination. The EPA recommends that anyone performing renovation, repair, and painting projects in pre-1978 homes, child care facilities and schools follow lead-safe work practices, which include containing the work area to keep dust and debris inside the area, minimizing the creation of dust, and cleaning the work area thoroughly after the project has been completed.

The two most effective counter-measures against VOCs are to avoid VOC-emitting products and to ventilate areas when using VOC-emitting products. Caregivers/teachers can choose from many high quality latex-based paints that emit low levels of VOCs. Some major paint manufacturers offer special odorless VOC-free products (3).

When planning or beginning new construction, consideration should be given to using the least toxic or non-toxic materials.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Radon Concentrations Testing for and Remediating Lead Hazards Surfaces of Equipment, Furniture, Toys, and Play Materials
  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2010. An introduction to indoor air quality: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2010. The lead-safe certified guide to renovate right. Washington, DC: EPA.
  3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agenda (EPA). 2016. Information for child care providers about indoor air quality. Washington, D.C.: EPA.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/17/2016.