Wall paints, pest-control practices, and cleaning supplies -- these are probably the last things on your mind when comparing day cares. But enrolling baby in a center with nontoxic practices will help keep her healthy. Use these tips from Hester Paul, of Eco-Healthy Child Care, who heads the national program that endorses providers meeting green standards.
"Area rugs on hardwood floors are ideal, much better than wall-to-wall," Paul says. The glue that's used to seal carpets can be toxic, especially for infants spending lots of time on the ground.
Any building constructed in 1978 or earlier likely contains lead paint. This isn't a hazard unless the paint is flaking or peeling, but make sure that the staff routinely checks the walls. At the slightest sign of chipping, a center should either cover walls with a low-VOC latex paint or have the lead paint professionally removed.
The center should take measures to limit toxins, such as applying caulk to seal crevices and using the least toxic pesticides possible, like neem oil or borax. If the building attracts insects and needs traditional pesticides, ask staff to spray at closing time so the air will clear by the time the kids return the next day.
Lingering chemicals can irritate a baby's lungs and trigger allergies or asthma. A quick fix is to switch to a nonaerosol version of the product (either a direct spray or a wipe). Even better, suggest that the center use only the eco-friendly products on the approved lists at ecologo.com or greenseal.org.
Nix dolls with soft, pliable faces and hands, and toys that have the texture of a rubber ducky. They contain polyvinylchloride (PVC), a toxin that can leach out of worn toys.
To find a green daycare center in your neighborhood, be sure to visit oeconline.org
Originally published in the March 2010 issue of American Baby magazine.