Attitudes and Actions towards Toxic Chemicals
An Environmental Health and Risk Perception Survey of Massachusetts Childcare Providers
Keywords:childcare, toxic chemicals, flame retardants, risk perception, environmental health
Over half of all children in the United States aged 3-5 spend time in preschool settings and are exposed to a disproportionately high level of toxic chemicals compared to other age groups. Long hours at childcare facilities can be a source of exposure to hazardous chemicals in household and children’s products. We surveyed 638 childcare providers in Massachusetts to assess their perception of toxic chemicals in their facilities to determine whether exposure concerns influenced their product purchasing behaviors and actions to reduce children’s exposure. Childcare providers reported low levels of worry about children’s exposure to toxic chemicals, but considered themselves able to make well-informed, healthy purchasing decisions. The strongest predictor of whether a provider was willing to seek safer products was a strong belief that exposure to chemicals is harmful to children. Results suggest that interventions designed to educate childcare providers of chemicals’ potential harm to children may be most successful in provoking safe purchasing behavior. Interventions that highlight low-cost solutions that are free of harmful chemicals are likely to provide the highest benefit.