Seven child care and preschool providers around the state that are located within 200 feet of current or former dry cleaning businesses are partnering with state agencies to assess indoor air quality to ensure they are not impacted by chemicals associated with dry cleaning. The assessment work is precautionary, and the state stands ready to provide mitigation support if needed.
State officials emphasized that this proactive effort is based on an understanding of the potential impact of chemicals used by dry cleaners. At this time there have been no reported cases of illnesses linked to this issue and there have not been any issues reported with any of the children’s programs being tested. All seven child care and preschool facilities are open and operating as usual.
A statement released last month announcing the assessments did not include the names of the facilities, so that each had an opportunity to first communicate with their families and staff. A seventh facility was added to the original list of six after an additional dry cleaning site was identified.
Chemicals associated with dry cleaning can seep into the ground if not stored or disposed of properly, creating conditions that may allow them to move from the ground into the air of buildings through the foundation. When these chemicals are present at high enough levels and inhaled, they can be harmful to human health.
Through historical and other research, 420 active and former dry cleaning establishments were identified throughout Vermont. To determine which child care and preschool facilities have a risk of contamination, the State used the industry distance standard of 200 feet from the dry cleaner locations. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is leading the assessment and air quality testing in coordination with the Department of Health and the Department for Children and Families.
“We are focusing on child care and preschool programs because children are more vulnerable to chemical exposure than older youth and adults,” said Ken Schatz, Commissioner of the Department for Children and Families. “The staff of each of the seven programs have been supportive of the assessments. I commend their efforts in providing safe and healthy services to families in their communities,” Schatz said.
Department of Health State Toxicologist Sarah Vose said it is unclear at this point what the testing may find, and that collecting this data is a first step to understand what chemicals, if any, may be present.
Throughout the process, all three departments will be advising and working with the child care and preschool facilities, families and staff. Sampling has begun at two of the facilities and data will be processed throughout December. Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said all parties will receive information about the testing results as soon as they have been assessed, and will be informed of any further steps needed to ensure safe indoor air quality should chemicals be found.
The child care and preschool programs working with the departments are:
- SVSU Early Education Program, Division Street in Bennington
- Canal Street Headstart, Canal Street in Brattleboro
- Y Early Childhood Program, St. Paul Street in Burlington
- Frog & Toad Child Care & Learning Center, Suzie Wilson Road in Essex
- Blooming Minds Enrichment Center, Lemnah Drive in St. Albans
- Heartworks, South Main Street in Stowe
- CU2 ChildCare, Dorset Lane in Williston
For more information about dry cleaning chemicals and this assessment project, visit healthvermont.gov/dry-cleaning-chemicals.