Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education

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For thirty years, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has traveled to communities throughout the country to conduct investigations at hazardous waste sites to keep communities safe from harmful environmental exposures and related diseases. We’ve learned that in most states, licensing requirements for early care and education (ECE) facilities, such as nurseries, schools, and daycare centers, do not consider environmental exposures.

To address this issue, ATSDR’s Division of Community Health Investigations (DCHI) released the Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) guidance manual and website with tools and resources for public health professionals to develop programs that protect the health of children where they learn and play. Choosing safe places for ECE facilities reduces children’s risk of being exposed to dangerous chemicals while in the facilities. “We want professionals in public health, community planning, licensing, zoning, environmental protection, early care and education, and other fields to ensure the safety of ECE locations within their communities and are committed to providing them support in doing so,” said Ileana Arias, PhD, director of ATSDR’s Division of Community Health Investigations.

The safe siting of ECE facilities includes a review of former uses of a site that may have left harmful substances on the property (both building and land), migration of harmful substances onto the site from nearby properties or activities, naturally occurring harmful substances on site, and access to safe drinking water.


ATSDR provides technical support and guidance through its APPLETREE Program, short for ATSDR’s Partnership to Promote Local Efforts to Reduce Environmental Exposure. This cooperative agreement funds 25 state health departments to increase their capacity to keep communities safe from harmful exposures and related diseases and to help them start their own Choose Safe Places (CSP) programs. Over the next three years, state health departments will work to achieve CSP program goals that include the following:

  • defining how locations for ECE programs are selected,
  • developing methods to help ensure ECE programs are placed on safe sites, and
  • implementing a pilot Choose Safe Places program.

Some APPLETREE states already have a CSP program. ATSDR is supporting them with resources to expand their programs, share best practices with other states, and develop ways to evaluate their success.

For more information about CSPECE

For more information about APPLETREE

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Page last reviewed: September 8, 2017
Page last updated: September 8, 2017