When considering day care, more than a few related topics could come to mind: children, toys, play, and a safe environment are probably some to just name a few. However, although children at day care may be under the supervision of responsible adults and having a great time with their playmates, they may be at risk for a danger most parents would have no idea about — toxic chemicals in the day care environment.

A new study of day care centers found a toxic cocktail of chemicals lurking in the air and dust, including phthalates, chemicals that are so toxic they’ve been banned in toys across the globe.

The research, funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is the first-ever detailed analysis of environmental contaminants and exposures for California day care centers. It covered 40 early childhood education facilities.

“Children are more vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants, and many small children spend as much as 10 hours per day, five days a week, in child care centers,” said study lead author Asa Bradman, associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH).

Phthalates Widespread in Daycare Centers

Phthalates are chemicals commonly used to make vinyl building materials such as flooring soft and flexible.  These building materials are commonly used in schools and day care centers, even though safer biobased alternatives like linoleum are available.

In the new study, phthalates were found in 100% of the air and dust samples inside daycare centers.  The report noted that,

“Phthalate compounds, detected in 100% of the air and dust samples, have been shown to disrupt normal hormone function in animals. There are no health-based benchmarks to evaluate phthalate levels in air. Of all compounds measured in dust, the highest were the phthalates di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), with medians of 172.2 and 46.8 μg/g, respectively.”

Oy.  Every single sample.

Phthalates have no place inside day care centers or schools, and are brought to us by BIG CHEM.  They are harmful to children’s health.  The researchers stated that

“Phthalate compounds are on the California Proposition 65 list as developmental toxins, and have been found to contaminate indoor environments.Studies have associated phthalate exposures with bronchial obstruction, allergies, and asthma in young children, and they are likely endocrine disruptors in humans.”

US EPA: Children Face Highest Exposures to Phthalates

According to the EPA,

“Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey (NHANES) indicates widespread exposure of the general population to phthalates. Biomonitoring data from amniotic fluid and urine have demonstrated that humans are exposed to phthalates in utero, as infants, during puberty, and in adult life, and that people are exposed to several phthalates at once…NHANES detected a DEHP urinary metabolite in 78% of the 2541 samples tested with women having a higher exposure than men. Children have been reported as having the highest exposures; specifically to DEHP, DBP, BBP and DnOP…Children are exposed to phthalates through environmental sources (e.g., air, water, food) as well as consumer products (e.g., toys)…Children’s estimated exposures are often greater than those in adults which may be due to increased intakes of food, water, and air on a bodyweight basis, as well children’s unique exposure pathways such as mouthing of objects and ingestion of non-food items. The 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 biomonitoring data in the Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals demonstrate that children have the highest exposures to phthalates of all groups monitored, and other biomonitoring data indicate in utero exposures to phthalates.”

Phthalates Banned in Toys in the US and Around the World

Phthalates were banned in toys in the United States in 2008.  Similar bans have been enacted by the states of California, Washington and Vermont.

Restrictions or bans have been placed on phthalates in PVC toys in the entire European Union, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Iceland Mexico, Norway, and Sweden.

While phthalates have been banned in toys, similar protections do not exist for day care centers and our schools.

Insane right?

Why are they still allowed in daycare centers and schools?