Case Study: How Being a Bright City Can Lead to Healthier Kids in Your Community

July 16, 2019
Case Study: How Being a Bright City Can Lead to  Even More Wins for Your Community

Anchorage recently trained childcare providers on what to look for in household products to avoid harmful ingredients. The training focused on children’s nap mats. City employees collected mats potentially containing chemical flame retardants and exchanged them for healthier alternatives. The toxics training and nap mat change-out were developed in collaboration with Bright Cities.

Flame retardants (FRs) are found in many everyday household items including furniture, electronics, cars and building insulation. FRs leach out from products into house dust. This is a major exposure route for babies and young children who spend lots of time playing on the ground and putting their hands in their mouths. FRs threaten our babies’ brains, affecting neurodevelopment. Scientific studies link FRs to cancer and to harm of the endocrine system.

“So simply by removing these toxic nap mats, we’re greatly reducing exposures to chemicals known to cause harm to children,” said executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics Pamela Miller, who led the training last month.

Anchorage Child Care providers

Childcare providers in Anchorage, AK, who learned about selecting childcare products without harmful chemicals. All participants exchanged nap mats potentially containing chemical flame retardants for healthier alternatives.

The costs associated with intellectual disabilities and lost IQ points linked to FRs (in particular, flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs) come to $266 billion a year in the United States.

The nap mat change-out project started as a Bright Cities partnership between the City of Anchorage and the community-based organization Alaska Community Action on Toxics. It grew to include multiple community services organizations including thread Alaska and the Anchorage Health Department.

Samples from the mats collected at the training will be sent to Duke University for analysis. Miller’s organization will seek additional funding to purchase more mats and potentially expand the program statewide.

Earlier this year, Anchorage also passed an ordinance banning four groups of chemical flame retardants from children’s products and upholstered home furniture starting 2020.

Anchorage successfully positioned its Bright Cities pilot project for statewide impact and changes to its city childcare licensing guidelines, resulting in healthier Anchorage children.

Is there a program or project that would benefit from our Bright Cities collaboration? Or, perhaps you’d like to start one?

To discuss this and anything else, please contact Bright Cities Program Director, Kyra Naumoff Shields at