Q. How can I find a daycare center that takes indoor air quality and environmental health very seriously? - Jenna, California

A. You’re in luck, Jenna. Your neighbors to the north — the ever-progressive Oregonians — are exporting their own very successful Eco-Healthy Childcare program to California, as well as seven other states this year. By 2010, the program plans to go national, too. Daycare centers that are certified under the program must meet a list of criteria dealing with air quality and exposure to pesticides, lead, chemicals and other toxins.

You can find a list of certified Eco-Healthy facilities online — there are already a few dozen in California. Don’t see a nearby one on the list? No need to sit and wait. You can actually just print out the checklist yourself and take it to your child’s current daycare center, or to one that you’re considering.

The requirements on the list, which include things like using eco-friendly cleaners and avoiding toys made of PVC, are all low cost or even free, and pretty simple to follow. When the providers see for themselves how easy it is to meet those requirements, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll get on board. You can help persuade them by pointing out that they have great marketing incentive to do so: Once a center is certified, it’s listed on the Eco-Healthy Childcare site; they also get Eco-Healthy placard to display. The staff’s reaction to your request will also be a good gauge of the center’s overall attitude.

Would you really want to leave your kids with people who aren’t willing to take such simple but important steps to keep them safe and healthy? Nobody puts baby in the (toxic) corner.

Story by Sarah Schmidt. This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008