Improving Chemical Safety in Iowa’s Child Care Centers

Mark H. Shour, P&S, Entomology


Several child abuse cases were documented recently when children were exposed to chemicals used in licensed child care centers in Iowa. Injuries ranged from chemical skin burns, to eye injuries, to respiratory distress. Although these injuries were not intentional, they were preventable.  Currently, more than 250,000 children are enrolled in child care facilities (centers and in-home sites) in the state of Iowa. These children have the potential of being exposed to cleaning agents, pesticides, and other chemicals while in child care. A March 2007 statewide survey by ISU Extension found more than 700 cleaning and disinfectant products as well as over 130 insecticide, herbicide and rodenticides in child care centers. 


To increase awareness for chemical safety in Iowa’s child care centers through provider training and useful educational aids.


A focus group of 10 licensed child care center directors in August 2007 determined that self-paced learning modules (Internet and DVD) would be the best way to train providers since staff/child contact time fills the work week (M-F, 6am – 6PM). Eight modules were assembled: Overview, Pesticides, Pesticide Labels, Cleaning Chemicals, Chemical Storage, Common Pest, Integrated Pest Management Overview, and “Is It Safe?” DVD by the Toxicology Education Foundation. The overall time was 2.5 hours. The Internet training site was: .  An optional worksheet was developed to enhance the information gained through the audiovisual training. Approval for continuing education units was obtained from ISU Continuing Education for program participants. The child care center director’s focus group also determined that some eye-catching visual aid should be created to reinforce the training.  A set of three full color posters (18”W x 24”L; laminated; SP 0316) was developed: “Reading Chemical Product Labels”, “Chemical Use in Child Care Facilities”, and “Choosing Pest Management Strategies”.

Outcome Statement: 

A pilot training was conducted with 7 child care centers and 60 providers. Based on pre-training/post-training surveys, participants improved their knowledge of chemical safety issues for 17 of the 30 questions, and had proper understanding for 9 of the 30 questions. Participants strongly believed the training familiarized them with pesticide and other chemical safety and IPM. An additional 40 people have taken the Internet training following the pilot program. There were 9,000 poster sets printed for this project. One set was mailed to each of the 1506 licensed child care centers in Iowa. Additional posters were made available to the public.


170 Pesticide Applicator Training

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