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We know that children routinely face hazards where they live, learn, and play. Many of these hazards originate from interactions with the environment. For example, children may be exposed to harmful chemicals in the air they breathe, the water they drink, or soil they touch or swallow. Because children are still growing and developing, they are uniquely susceptible to health threats from environmental exposures. These early exposures can trigger diseases and disrupt development, learning, and behavior.

As our scientific understanding of children’s environmental health issues continues to evolve, so do the policies and practices in place to protect children’s health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) are working to prevent and control harmful environmental exposures that affect children. We are dedicated to protecting America’s health.

Protecting communities from hazardous waste exposures is one of ATSDR’s key functions. National and state programs exist to ensure safe siting for school age children. Young children are even more susceptible to harmful environmental exposures, but less attention has been paid to the placement of early care and education (ECE) programs. Through our work in communities across the United States, we have seen how the location of an ECE program can affect the health of the children it serves. In the past decade, ATSDR’s public health assessment and health consultation activities have evaluated and provided recommendations at dozens of sites where concerns existed about potential environmental hazard exposures for children attending an ECE program. We have applied lessons learned from this site work to develop Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) Guidance Manual. This manual is a resource to help you keep children in your community safe and healthy in the environments where they grow, learn, and play.

This manual is the result of many people’s efforts. I would like to thank all those who contributed to the development of this resource, including the staff of ATSDR and NCEH along with subject matter experts and practitioners from a variety of stakeholder organizations.

We work hard to protect the public’s health in America and we hope that you will help us in this effort.

Patrick Breysse, PhD, CIH
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Environmental Health, and
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry