A horrifying story from today's Philadelphia Inquirer details how the former owner of a thermometer factory knew his facilities were contaminated with mercury before he sold it. He didn't know on the other hand that that facility would later be rented out as a day care center for preschool-aged children.

Finding a high quality day care center for your kids can be a daunting and overwhelming task. There are so many factors to consider — location, price, number and age of enrollees, and the number of hours you will need care. One major factor that you should keep in mind is the environmental practices of the facility.

A green child care center is one that takes measures to ensure that its practices are gentle on the environment and safe and healthy for children. Even if your town does not have a facility that labels itself as “green,” there may be some steps they are already taking (or would consider taking) to make their child care centers as eco-friendly as possible.

To get a feel for a child care center, visit the facilities and talk with other parents who send their children there. Check out the ratio of staff to children, the cleanliness of the facility, and whether or not babies are cared for in the same rooms as older children. Ask staff how they deal with unexpected illnesses or children who misbehave.

The Oregon Environmental Council has developed an Eco-Healthy Child Care Checklist with 25 environmental health criteria for daycare centers. The two most important are the use of non-toxic techniques to control pests and prohibition of smoking anywhere on the center’s premises. Oh, and you might also want to ask them how long they have been in their current location and if they have any historical information on previous owners. Chances are, your prospective center wasn't used as a thermometer factory ... but these days, you never can tell.

Finding green day care
How to choose a day care center that is safe and healthy for your kids and the planet.