Appendix E: Estimating Potential Exposures for ECE Programs

ATSDR’s National Estimate of ECE Programs with Potential Harmful Exposures

ATSDR estimates that 1.35 million children are in programs that warrant additional evaluation to ensure the site is safe and about 174,000 children may currently be exposed to harmful contaminants.

Basis for Estimate

  • The United States has approximately 110,000 licensed child care centers.
  • As of March 2016, New Jersey had 3,939 licensed child care centers, of which 17% have had an actual or potential indoor air exposure concern because of the location of the center and 2.2% needed action to prevent or mitigate actual harmful exposures.
  • New Jersey averages 72 children per licensed child care centers (based on the geometric average of all licensed childcares).

For children at sites that warrant additional evaluation to ensure the site is safe:

calculations for children at sites that warrent evaluation to ensure the site is safe


Warrant additional evaluation to ensure the site is safe May currently be exposed to harmful contaminants
(estimated number)
1,346,400 174,240
ECE programs
(estimated number)
18,700 2,420
Limitations and Notes

New Jersey is only one state. The composition of urban, suburban, and rural areas and the legacy of past contamination and current business patterns might not represent all of the United States.

Sufficient data from other states are not available to use to calculate a potential national estimate. Therefore, this calculation provides a starting point and needs to be interpreted carefully.

The number of child care centers (110,309) might exclude places such as Head Starts, preschools, or other licensed programs. The document the number was obtained from only lists licensed child care centers. Therefore, our calculation might underrepresent the number of programs and children at risk.

The data provided by New Jersey’s program focuses on indoor air exposures, and does not capture soil contamination which falls under the jurisdiction of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Using this data might under-represent exposures from soil, outdoor air, or other sources.

New Jersey’s program also focuses on licensed ECE programs where more than five children are in care, making the focus on larger programs. This might not reflect how children are cared for outside of their home across the United States. ATSDR will update these burden estimates when data from other states are available.

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Page last reviewed: October 30, 2018