Results of the project
The results of the questionnaire was subjected to statistical analysis and enabled us to:
- identify the problems encountered in the indoor environment of crèches, so as to reduce the potentially negative impact on the children's health;
- raise awareness and encourage prevention in crèches with regard to issues relating to the indoor environment;
- support crèches in a process of taking ownership and improving the quality of indoor air;
- formulate proposals for concrete solutions that respond to the problems identified.
Among the 676 crèches throughout Belgium which received the self-evaluation questionnaire, 494 replied (participation rate of 73.2%) and 433 of them were selected for the statistical analysis (64.1%) so as to maintain homogeneous sampling. The Dutch-speaking crèches, which were ruled out, were not suitable for the analysis because their environment did not entirely match the framework of the study. For example, they concerned houses belonging to private individuals (trained child minders).
About 66% of the forms were completed by the management. The majority of child care facilities are located in buildings that were not purpose-built (61%). This explains why nearly 50% of the participants confirmed that they had made major renovations and alterations over a period of time, often in the rooms to which children have access About 22% of the child care facilities mentioned that other activities were located in the same building: garages, warehouses or workshops. The latter could be a source of exposure to volatile organic compounds.
Nearly 33% of the participants said that they had been victims of damp problems such as leaks, seepage or flooding and 25% of participants claimed to have problems with mould. 19 crèches, or 4 %, believe that they have mould problems both in the rooms used by children and the rooms not used by children. In terms of ventilation, the bathroom, a room that generates high humidity, is the room least likely to have windows that open to the outside (removing the dampness produced). In addition, in the majority of crèches, ventilation periods were inadequate, especially in winter.
Analysis of the questionnaires raises the suspicion that 52% of crèches use pesticides (mainly insecticides), whether exceptionally or more regularly, and 72% use deodorants, either in a spray or plugged into an electrical socket. This represents a potential contamination with VOCs.
Concerning the maintenance of combustion appliances (solid, liquid or gas-fuelled), a genuine carbon monoxide contamination problem could arise for 7% of participants.
Some questions were less comprehensible for the people who completed the questionnaire: identification of lead pipes, the exact temperature shown on the hot water tank or the possible presence of asbestos.
The analyses conducted in the 25 crèches selected for the second phase revealed a high concentration of VOCs in the majority of participating crèches. For legionella, one crèche tested positive for serogroup 1 (high contamination) and another crèche tested positive for serogroups 2-14. The results also showed high concentrations of benzene and toluene in the air and the presence of lead in water and paints. Among the 25 child care facilities visited, 14 (or 56%) had developed mould.
To increase the impact of this project in the long term, all the child care facilities which took part received general recommendations, as well as personalised advice. The statistical and analytical results were presented during seminars organised at sub-regional level. At these seminars, 'toolboxes' enabling the work to be carried out in the long term were presented. These contain:
- Measuring apparatuses for temperature, relative humidity and concentration of CO2;
- A 'to do' checklist;
- A protocol for organising awareness-raising and training sessions;
- Thematic information sheets supplementing the information and providing some practical tips;
- The material developed during the project (questionnaire and coaching manual) and improved following the results of the statistical analysis.