Parents shouldn’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in the nap mats their children sleep on at child care centers.
But, flame retardant chemicals can be found throughout our common living spaces and even children’s products such as toys and nap mats. Contrary to what their name suggests, flame retardants offer no proven fire safety benefit and are linked with serious health concerns. Recent studies have shown that exposure to foam contained in some nap mats may be harmful to a child’s brain development.
Last March, the Municipal Assembly adopted an ordinance banning the sale of children’s products, mattresses, and upholstered furniture containing four classes of chemical flame retardants; it goes into effect in January 2020.
To take action on this issue, the Anchorage Health Department received a $20,000 grant to participate in Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ Bright Cities, a program that helps communities protect children from neurotoxic chemical exposures.
In June, a nap mat swap with Anchorage child care programs was organized with partners thread, Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), and Healthy Babies Bright Futures.
Child care programs traded in 330 old nap mats for new toxic-free ones, including sheet covers. Trainings were also conducted by thread for early educators on reducing toxic exposures in child care centers.
“The Anchorage Health Department operates the Child Care Licensing Program for the Municipality of Anchorage,” said Natasha Pineda, Director of the Anchorage Health Department. “We have more than 200 licensed child care homes and centers providing care to an estimated 10,568 children with an opportunity to make an immediate reduction of harmful chemical exposures and improve the wellbeing of the children we care for.”
Samples from the old mats gathered at the trainings will be sent to Duke University for analysis. If the pilot is successful, the program may be expanded to replace nap mats statewide.
“With a mission to improve quality early education, thread was pleased to partner with the Municipality and ACAT in this initiative to help child care programs understand and improve the health and safety of their learning environments,” said Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread.
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