Children in Dangerous Locations: Mapping Environmental Hazards Near Pennsylvania Child Care Centers

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John Wargo
Essay Abstract: 
Currently, only two states have laws ensuring that children in child care centers are safe from exposure from environmental hazards due to location. This led me to investigate whether there is an abundance of child care centers in Pennsylvania located near hazardous facilities because of the absence of state regulations on the location of child care centers. Using GIS proximity analysis and Risk Scores that categorize each hazardous facility as either low, low-medium, high-medium or high risk, I quantified the number of child care centers located within 250 meters of hazardous facilities registered with the U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) and the U.S. EPA National Emissions Inventory (NEI). I discovered there is not an extensive problem in Pennsylvania of child care centers being located near hazardous facilities. Only approximately 2.5% of Pennsylvania child care centers have TRI or NEI facilities releasing air pollution located within 250 meters. Additionally, only 0.85% or 70 child care centers are within 250 meters of high-medium or high-risk TRI or NEI facilities. This percentage is small but it does not mean the absence of state regulations on environmental hazards on or in close proximity to child care centers has not caused a problem. This is because the 0.85% of child care centers within 250 meters of the higher range of risk facilities provide care for more than 3920 children, thus putting thousands of children potentially at risk.