No regulated testing for lead at daycares in B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Testing for lead is required at schools in B.C., but what about in our child care facilities? Daycare operators are supposed to prove they provide safe drinking water, but there’s no regulated testing.

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says proper drinking water is a requirement for the licensing of a daycare. “It’s quite carefully regulated through the local health authorities.”

“Just as they would let us know if there was an outbreak of a virus… we would expect them to give advice around whether or not taps needed to be opened and run for five minutes in the morning before a program started or if we should be doing things differently in our programs.”

But there are no specific regulations requiring testing for lead. The province says health authorities “promote” screening for lead and provide education and resources to child care operators. (full statement below)

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But Rena Laberge with the B.C. Family Child Care Association says it’s a complicated issue. Many home-based daycares are in rented spaces.

“It would come down to who would be responsible for fixing it to the proper levels. There’s a lot of questions regarding that,” she tells us.

Asked whether daycares should be compelled to undergo regulated testing for lead in drinking water, LaBerge says that would come with a lot of variables. “Some [daycares] are in townhomes, some are… in condos. Then you’ve got your rented and then you’ve got your owner-occupied ones. So, it could be very complex.”

“Child care programs can sometimes be in older buildings,” adds Gregson. “We would expect the people with the qualifications to be monitoring health situations for children would be giving us good advice on what needed to be remedied.”

Both say if you have concerns as a parent, you should speak to your daycare provider first and then your local health authority.

“Start asking for that testing possibly to be done, so that we know what levels we have. It’s the same as the chemical awareness, as well. We need to start being more alert to what is in our carpets, and things like that for the children, as well,” says Laberge.

“Whenever parents have a concern about anything in child care pertaining to health and safety, talking to the operator is the first go-to place. Talking to the local health authority and asking to speak to the local licensing officer… Parents should at all times know that that’s an avenue available to them,” says Gregson.

Full statement from the Ministry of Health:

Daycare operators must demonstrate they provide safe drinking water to children under the Child Care Licensing Regulation- Community Care and Assisted Living Act, as part of their licensing requirement. The results are shared with regional health authorities.

All of our regional health authorities, through their environmental health officers and licensing officers, promote screening for lead and provide education as well as resources to child care operators.

The Provincial Health officer and Ministry of Health staff are also in midst of discussions regarding lead sampling in daycares with the BC Environmental Health Policy Advisory Committee.

– With files from Marcella Bernardo and Jonathan Szekeres

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