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In Indiana, there are over 100,000 children attending child care in more than 4,000 facilities throughout the state. Child Care providers play a key role in protecting children from environmental health threats both in their own buildings but also through education to parents about the homes in which children live. Children are more vulnerable to the negative effects of environmental hazards such as lead in paint and water, pesticides, mercury, asbestos, and radon. Children are exposed to more pollutants in their food, water, and air because they eat, drink and breathe more per pound of body weight than adults. They are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals because their bodily defense mechanisms are not fully formed. And research has shown that 90% of a child’s brain develops by age four. That’s why it’s essential to provide children with a safe, clean environment.
IDEM’s Five Star Environmental Recognition Program for Child Care Providers recognizes providers that choose to go above and beyond environmental, health, and safety regulations to keep children healthy. It empowers parents with information so they can make the best choices for their children and helps child care providers do their best for Hoosier children. Through the program, IDEM provides facilities with information and resources they need to assess their facilities, educational materials that they can use on-site and distribute to parents and children, and free on-site assistance to help improve their facilities. IDEM wants to help facilities be as successful as they can. We provide free lead risk assessments and free radon test kits. We also conduct site visits where we offer assistance to help complete the application. We even provide outdoor signage to encourage parents to turn their cars off instead of idling their vehicles where children walk by. If we do find any issues that need addressed, we help the facility with ideas for cost effective strategies that can reduce or even eliminate the environmental health threat. Most importantly, in the end, the child care provider and the parents have piece of mind.