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Harmful Chemicals Found in Day Care Centers, Study Says

THURSDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Levels of formaldehyde and several other contaminants in some California day care centers exceed state health guidelines, according to a new study.

Formaldehyde, a known respiratory irritant and a listed cancer-causing agent in California, is commonly found in the glues used in pressboard furniture and laminated wood. It is also found in paint products, clothing, cosmetics and combustion sources such as gas and wood-burning stoves.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, collected air and floor dust samples to assess levels of environmental contaminants and exposures at 40 day care centers in Alameda and Monterey counties.

"Children are more vulnerable to the health effects of environmental contaminants, and many small children spend as much as 10 hours a day, five days a week, in child care centers," study lead author Asa Bradman, associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health, said in a university news release.

"We wanted to establish the baseline levels of environmental exposures in these early child care settings, and to provide information that could be used for any necessary policy changes," she explained.

They found that almost 88 percent of facilities had formaldehyde levels higher than 9 micrograms per cubic meter over eight hours, which is above the state's guideline for safe exposure.

The researchers also found that cleaning- and sanitizing-related chemicals were present in the air at the day care centers, sometimes at higher levels than those found in homes. Formaldehyde can form when these chemicals react with ozone and other compounds in the air.

Other chemicals of concern detected by the researchers included phthalates (found in plastics), flame retardants, pesticides and perfluorinated compounds (found in Teflon and stain-resistant carpets).

The study was funded by the California Air Resources Board, and released Oct. 25.

Considering many children have asthma, it would make sense to choose safer cleaning products with less volatile chemicals, according to the news release. Ensuring proper ventilation can help reduce levels of formaldehyde and other contaminants in day care centers, the researchers said.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about indoor air quality.

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