Date of Award
Open Access Thesis
Master of Public Health (MPH)
School of Public Health
Children are widely recognized as particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of environmental contaminants. As such, the physical environment in which they live, play, and breathe can have a significant impact on their health and development throughout their life. In 2007, Connecticut's Department of Public Health established the Screening Assessment for Environmental Risk (SAFER) program as a proactive, non-regulatory approach to screening child care centers in the state. Several screening methods are implemented in this voluntary process, including the identification of any hazardous waste sites within 1/8 of a mile of a proposed child care site. While successful, the SAFER program is only implemented for licensed child care centers and group child homes, not family child care homes. This is largely because residential sites are assumed to pose a lesser risk than providers located in industrial or non-residential spaces. However, SAFER has received referrals concerning environmental hazards in proximity to family child care homes, particularly in relation to well water. In this study, a proximity analysis is performed for family child care homes and two potential sources of well water contamination in five Middlesex County towns. These findings will be used to inform whether the SAFER program should consider efforts to improve well water testing among family child care homes in Connecticut.
Five towns in Middlesex County, Connecticut were selected for analysis. A total of 55 addresses of active family child care home licenses in Middlefield, Middletown, Portland, Cromwell, East Hampton were geocoded in ArcGIS. Pending and inactive family child care home licenses were excluded.
Addresses for open and controlled Significant Environmental Hazard (SEH) Sites identified by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) were geocoded in the towns of interest as well as their bordering towns, resulting in a total 13 town SEH sites included in the analysis. A buffer and near analysis were used to identify family child care sites within 1/8 and 1/4 of a mile of an SEH site, as well as find the average distance from family child care homes to the closest SEH site.
The University of Connecticut’s Agricultural Land Use maps were used to identify agricultural land in the same aforementioned five towns of interest. Images of the land use maps were georeferenced in ArcGIS and a buffer analysis was used to identify homes within 1/8 and 1/4 of a mile of current and former agricultural land.
Of the 55 family child care homes included in the analysis, 24 (44%) were within 1/8 a mile and 40 (72%) were within 1/4 a mile of former agricultural land. For current land use, 10 (18%) of family child care sites were within 1/8 a mile and 28 (39%) were within 1/4 a mile of agricultural land. There were 15 family child care homes (27%) not within the 1/4 mile radius of current or former agricultural land.
A total of 33 open and controlled Significant Environmental Hazard are located in the 13 towns studied. Four of these sites are classified as open and 29 are controlled. Among the 55 family child care sites included in the analysis, 2 were located within 1/4 a mile (4%), and 1 site was located within 1/8 a mile of an open or controlled SEH site (2%).
The proximity of family child care homes to agricultural land in this rural region suggest a potential need for increased well water testing among family child care homes. SAFER may consider implementing a similar non-regulatory approach they have used previously to increase the recommended annual testing among family child care homes relying on well water.
There are important limitations to consider with these findings. The UConn CLEAR map used for current agricultural use is based on 2006 data. Furthermore, the farm activity or history of chemical use among the mapped agricultural in this study is not known. Future studies may consider identifying proximity to farms with current pesticide licenses or areas with known former pesticide use, especially in the case of banned pesticides.
This analysis also relied on geocoding addresses of homes as well as the significant environmental hazard sites reported by DEEP. While this provides insight on location, it is an important limitation as exact sites of the home, well, and contamination site may vary significantly on property lines. DEEP maintains an ArcGIS map with more exact longitude and latitude locations of SEH sites, which should be used for future SAFER screening.
Lastly, it must be reiterated that proximity to these sites does not imply exposure. Rather, these findings demonstrate that the existing mapping methods used for child care center licenses may be useful for determining a need for future environmental screening among family child care homes.
Carr, Devan, "Safer Well Water: Exploring Environmental Screening Efforts For Family Child Care Homes" (2019). Public Health Theses. 1819.
This Article is Open Access