Washington Choose Safe Places – Resources for Early Care and Education Programs 

Washington Choose Safe Places is a voluntary program for new and existing child care providers to help keep children safe from toxic chemicals and environmental hazards. Our goal is to identify and address potential environmental concerns at or around licensed early care and education (ECE) facilities. We can help you choose a safe location for your child care facility, offer free soil and toy testing, and provide professional guidance to protect children’s health and help your business succeed. 

WA Choose Safe Places is funded by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as a part of their Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education initiative. 

Harmful Chemicals Can Pose a Hidden Danger 

Washington laws require ECE centers be “on a site free from known environmental hazards.” According to the law, ECE centers must prevent enrolled children from being exposed to the following harmful substances: 

  • Lead based paint 
  • Plumbing and fixtures containing lead or lead solders
  • Asbestos
  • Arsenic, lead, or copper in the soil and drinking water
  • Toxic mold
  • Radon
  • Other identified toxins or hazards

Even if your ECE center meets current state licensing requirements, you may still be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals in your area. This can put children and staff at greater risk of health problems like cancer, asthma, and learning disabilities. Children are more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals than adults. Their bodies are still developing, and they tend to put objects that could be unsafe into their mouths.  

Everyone benefits from a safe and healthy environment for work and play. Safely located ECE programs support the health, economic, and social well-being of the staff and families who rely on them. 

Take Steps to Check for Hazards 

As an ECE provider, the best thing you can do is become aware. We can help your program make informed choices about choosing a safe site for your child care program or improve the safety at an established site. Follow these steps: 

  1. Participate in our FREE soil and toy testing program for your early care and education facility in Washington state. 
  2. Request a FREE radon air test kit for your facility. 
  3. Download and complete the Child Care Property Checklist (PDF). This form is also available in Spanish (PDF) and Somali (PDF)
  4. Submit the completed checklist to wcsp@doh.wa.gov
  5. Receive a free, written report of your screening results from Washington State Department of Health with access to educational materials and resources. 

Tips for completing the property checklist: 

  • Take the property checklist with you as you visit potential properties where you might locate your child care center or while touring your existing facility. 
  • Answer the questions the best you can. If you don’t know one of the answers, we recommend you talk to the property owner, your city building, planning, or zoning department, or contact us at wcsp@doh.wa.gov

Key factors to evaluate for an ECE site: 

  • Former uses of the site – Past uses of the site may have left harmful substances behind. These could be hazardous to people who use the site today. It may not be clear how the site was used in the past or if harmful chemicals were used, made, or dumped there. Even if a site looks clean, it might not be free of unsafe chemicals.  
  • Nearby sites and activities – Harmful substances from nearby sources can move onto ECE sites through the air, water or soil. For example, businesses –like gas stations, hair or nail salons, auto repair shops, factories, or farms—can release harmful chemicals into the environment. This could put nearby ECE centers at risk. 
  • Naturally occurring contamination – Some harmful substances are in the environment naturally. Naturally occurring contaminants can be just as unsafe as other manmade hazards, and some may be at or near an ECE site. There are a variety of naturally occurring contaminants in the air, soil, and water that can be harmful to health, like asbestos, arsenic, radon, or lead. 
  • Access to safe drinking water – Contaminants can get into drinking water from a variety of sources or activities. Drinking water can be contaminated from naturally occurring minerals, agricultural chemicals, manufacturing processes, or septic systems. As water travels through the pipes, it can be contaminated with chemicals like lead or copper. 

Who Can Participate in Washington Choose Safe Places? 

WA Choose Safe Places is designed to support licensed ECE programs, including new ECE programs receiving their first-time license, existing ECE programs, and those that are reapplying as part of ownership or location changes. We also support home-based and school-based ECE programs. 

Our tools may be helpful for: 

  • ECE program owners and operators 
  • Center-based ECE providers, family home providers, and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or Head Start providers 
  • Parents 
  • ECE licensing agencies 
  • City planners 
  • Zoning officials 
  • Public health professionals 
  • Other partners concerned about children's environmental health 

To develop this program and create safe practices in our state, we are partnering with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families; Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit; Environmental Protection Agency Region 10; Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction; Department of Ecology's Toxics Cleanup Program; and local health jurisdictions. 

Additional Resources 

Contact Us 

Email: wcsp@doh.wa.gov