Imagine this. You want to provide your young child with a good learning experience and believe that sending your child to daycare will help. Your neighbors found a local daycare center and highly recommend it. So, you decide to send your baby there as well.
The center looks nice enough. It has windows so that the children are never left alone with instructors and there is lots of equipment and learning apparatus everywhere. There are colorful designs and it looks like a very lively and nurturing place.
Two months after your child starts going to the daycare center you happen to notice in the local paper that the State is investigating a claim that the daycare center has been contaminated with mercury contamination. Worse yet, there are instructions that anyone whose child has attended the daycare center should proceed to a government operated facility for blood testing. Your child's blood contains high levels of mercury.
Is this hypothetical? Unfortunately, this depicts a true story from New Jersey. As a result of what happened, there are now new regulations which require operators of daycare centers to test the indoor and outdoor environment for possible hazardous substance contamination.
The point of this article is to alert you to the fact that daycare centers need to be tested. In the New Jersey example, the daycare center operated on the site of a former thermometer manufacturing facility. While there is substantial litigation ongoing concerning the facts that surround this site and who may or may not be legally responsible for it, the point remains that children were unwittingly exposed to this contamination.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta, Georgia, very small amounts of mercury in the air can be harmful to health.
When people inhale mercury vapors, approximately 85 percent of the mercury enters the blood stream directly from the lungs. Then, the mercury travels to other parts of the body including the brain and the kidneys. Once in the body, mercury can be retained for weeks or months.
How many daycare facilities throughout the United States are constructed on locations that once had industrial uses? The answer is that we really do not know because nobody has been keeping that kind of information.
Now, in New Jersey there is a very good initiative underway to make sure that these kinds of tragedies don't repeat themselves. Are they doing this in your town or county? If not, write some letters and point your legislators and regulators to New Jersey. Have them look up mercury and daycare centers on the internet and they will be able to see for themselves that this is indeed an important and worthwhile issue.
Before signing your child up for a new daycare center, find out what that daycare center was before it was a daycare center. If you are not satisfied with the answer, then either do more research or find another daycare center.
While the odds that your child will be in harms way are minimal, children are very often at most risk. This is the time that their brains and bodies are developing and this is the time in their lives that they are most prone to the negative impacts associated with these exposures.
Ask questions and don't settle for less than satisfactory answers. If you do not get them, then maybe you should continue looking for another daycare center.