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 Informing Staff Regarding Presence of Toxic Substances

Employers should provide staff with hazard information, including access to and review of the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), about the presence of toxic substances such as formaldehyde, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, insecticides, herbicides, and other hazardous chemicals in use in the facility. Staff should always read the label prior to use to determine safety in use. For example, toxic products regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have an EPA signal word of CAUTION, WARNING, or DANGER. Where nontoxic substitutes are available, these nontoxic substitutes should be used instead of toxic chemicals. If a nontoxic product is not available, caregivers/teachers should use the least toxic product for the job. A CAUTION label is safer than a WARNING label, which is safer than a DANGER label.
These precautions are essential to the health and well-being of the staff and the children alike. Many cleaning products and art materials contain ingredients that may be toxic. Regulations require employers to make the complete identity of these materials known to users. Because nontoxic substitutes are available for virtually all necessary products, exchanging them for toxic products is required.
The U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA, is responsible for protection of workers and is listed in the phone books of all large cities. Because standards change frequently, the facility should seek the latest standards from the EPA. Information on toxic substances in the environment is available from the EPA. For information on consumer products contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). For information on art and craft materials, contact the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). The local health jurisdiction can also be a resource for information on hazardous chemicals in child care.

The SDS explains the risk of exposure to products so that appropriate precautions may be taken.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Integrated Pest Management Use and Storage of Toxic Substances Proper Use of Art and Craft Materials Pool Equipment and Chemical Storage Rooms Chlorine Pucks
  1. Wargo, J. 2004. The physical school environment: An essential component of a health-promoting school. WHO Information series on School Health, document 2. Geneva: WHO.
  2. Fiene, R. 2002. 13 indicators of quality child care: Research update. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.