Healthy Housing Connections, Winter 2009

Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations. – President Barack Obama, Inaugural Address

The nation enters 2009 with challenges that far exceed any that we have faced in the recent past. Yet there are significant signs of hope and inspiration for all of us who are committed to improving the lives of families in the United States. Congress is considering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The bill is intended to create and save millions of jobs and spur the economy through tax cuts and critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure, while reducing our energy consumption and improving environmental quality.

The “stimulus” bill nearly doubles funding for the HUD Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control (OHHLHC) with the inclusion of an additional $100 million for its lead programs. Major funding increases for energy efficiency retrofits in HUD-assisted housing, the Community Development Block Grant Program, and Public and Indian Housing will further revitalize and enhance our nation’s housing. The House bill also included $60 million for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s environmental health programs, $50 million for injury prevention, and $30 million for public health workforce development activities.These amounts are in addition to the funding that will be considered by the Congress when they take up the FY09 Appropriations bills this month.

NCHH successfully advocated for several amendments to the bill to enable the OHHLHC to fund grant applications submitted under the FY 2008 Notices of Funding Availability that were qualified for award, but not awarded due to funding constraints.

Click here to read the Senate version (S.1) or click here to read the House version (H.R.1) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In This Issue:

New CDC-NCHH Study Shows Housing Improvements Benefit Health
NCHH Finds That EPA Floor Lead Dust Standard is Four Times Too High

Ask NCHH - Healthy Housing for Older Adults
NCHH Finds That Only 30 percent of “10-Year” Smoke Alarms Still Functioning at the 10-Year Mark

Massachusetts 2009 Healthy Housing Summit
EPA Aging Initiative Releases Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Fact Sheet
NCHH Offers Fact Sheet Explaining the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule

NCHH Subsidiary Offers Support for Organizations Applying for HUD Lead and Healthy Homes Grants
NCHH in the News

Main Feature

New Study Shows Housing Improvements Benefit Health

NCHH and CDC recently completed the first U.S. scientific review of healthy homes interventions. The results are available in a new report titled Housing Interventions and Health: A Review of the Evidence.

Together, NCHH and CDC convened more than 30 of the nation’s leading housing and health experts to document the housing and neighborhood improvements (interventions) that are scientifically proven to improve health and safety. The resulting report also identifies the housing interventions that require additional research.

The experts reviewed more than 170 scientific studies of housing interventions that improve asthma and respiratory problems, cancer, injuries, and other health concerns. A few of the interventions determined ready for broad-scale implementation include:  

  • Lead hazard control to prevent lead poisoning;
  • Integrated pest management (IPM) to reduce asthma and pesticide exposure;
  • Comprehensive and tailored home-based asthma interventions;
  • Active sub-slab depressurization to reduce lung-cancer from radon gas; and
  • Smoke alarm installations to prevent injuries and death from residential fires.

Click here to view the full report, Housing Interventions and Health: A Review of the Evidence.


EPA Floor Lead Dust Standard Four Times Too High

Recently, NCHH completed a series of analyses indicating that the current EPA standards for floor lead dust in housing are too high and leave more than 30 percent of children at risk for lead poisoning.  

NCHH found that the floor dust standard (currently 40 micrograms per square foot) is four times what it should it be to be protective. Lowering the floor dust lead standard to10 ug/ft2 would protect at least 95 percent of children in the United States from having a concentration of lead in their blood above the current Centers for Disease Control level of concern.

Similarly, the current window sill dust lead level of 250 micrograms per square foot is more than double NCHH’s recommended standard of 100.

The results of the study were published in Environmental Health Perspectives and are available online at and


Healthy Housing for Older Adults

An estimated 70 million people in the U.S. will be age 65 or older by the year 2030, comprising approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population. Understanding potential environmental exposures and the associated health impacts for this population is critical. A new NCHH brief details several key issues related to the housing and health of older adults, including:

  • Heat Waves. Older adults are among those most at risk during extreme heat events. A working air conditioner is the strongest protective factor against heat-related death.
  • Asthma/Respiratory Illness. The prevalence of asthma may be similar in older and younger adults, but the number of older adults dying from asthma is 14 times higher compared to those 18-35 years of age. Many older persons spend up to 90% of their time indoors, often at home, and may be exposed to common indoor environmental hazards such as tobacco smoke,animal dander, dust, or pollen.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. for men and women age 65 years and older. People living with diabetes are considered at high risk for adverse health effects from exposure to harmful particles or air pollution found both indoors and outdoors.
  • Falls. Every 18 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency department for a fall, and every 35 minutes someone in this population dies as a result of their injuries. Home-based intervention strategies can reduce falls and help older adults live better and longer.
  • Walkable Green Space. Studies show that living in areas with walkable green spaces positively influences the longevity of urban senior citizens independent of their age, sex, marital status, baseline functional status, and socioeconomic status.

To access the brief, click here

EPA Aging Initiative Releases Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Fact Sheet

Do you know how to tell the difference between carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the flu? The answer to this and many other questions you may have about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning can be found in a new fact sheet developed by the US EPA Aging Initiative. This is the eighth fact sheet in aseries of educational information for older adults and their caregivers about preventing exposure to harmful environmental hazards.

Click here to read the fact sheet.

The previous seven fact sheets can be found at


The National Healthy Homes Training Center

As of August 2008, more than 3,000 individuals have been trained through the Healthy Homes Training Center, which is now active in every region of the U.S. To find a training center location near you and to register for training, click here.

If you are interested in sponsoring the Training Center, click here or contact Phillip Dodge, NCHH Marketing & Development Officer at 443.539.4168 or

If you would like to bring a Healthy Home Session to your area, please contact Susan Aceti at 443.539.4153 or

Healthy Homes Specialist Credential

In partnership with the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), NCHH administers the only credentialing program for healthy homes professionals in the health and housing fields. To achieve the credential, individuals must complete a comprehensive exam on the seven principles of healthy housing, which include keeping homes Dry, Clean, Pest-Free, Contaminant-Free, Ventilated, Safe, and Maintained. The Healthy Homes Specialist credential signifies that an individual has demonstrated competency in the basics of the seven principles and how to put them into practicein homes.

NCHH is also excited to announce that we have entered into a partnership with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) to promote the Credential among their 6,000 members. Our collective goal is to enable ASHI’s members to better understand the health implications of their inspection work and to obtain the Healthy Homes Specialist credential so they can market healthy homes assessments as a new service.

To learn more about the Healthy Homes Specialist credential, click here.


Seventy Percent of "Ten-Year" Smoke Alarms Not Functioning

Eight to 10 years after state health departments installed lithium-powered “10-year” smoke alarms in homes as part of the CDC-funded Smoke Alarm Installation and Fire Safety Education (SAIFE) programs, only 33 percent of the alarms were functional. Thirty-seven percent were missing and 30 percent were present but nonfunctional.

CDC funded NCHH to evaluate a subset of homes that received smoke alarms between 1998 and 2001 to determine if the lithium-powered smoke alarms were operational 8-10 years after installation. NCHH randomly selected 427 homes from states—Georgia, Virginia, Washington, Kentucky, and Oklahoma—for enrollment in the project and hired inspectors in each state to note whether the original smoke alarms were present and operable and the reason for a nonfunctioning smoke alarm. Inspectors replaced both nonfunctional smoke alarms and alarms nearing the end of their estimated lifespan with new models. Inspectors also noted whether carbon monoxide (CO) alarms were installed in the enrolled units. 

Alarms were more likely to be missing from rental properties than owner-occupied homes. Smoke alarms were less likely to be functioning if they were installed in kitchens and depending upon the brand. The likelihood of missing alarms or non-functioning alarms varied significantly by state. Eight percent of the alarms were missing batteries, 21 percent contained lithium-powered batteries, and 48 percent had non-lithium powered batteries. Seventy-eight percent of the smoke alarms that had lithium batteries were functional compared to 53 percent of smoke alarms with non-lithium batteries. Eight percent of the homes had a carbon monoxide alarm. Evaluators installed a total of 708 new lithium-powered 10-year smoke alarms in the homes. 

Although the evaluation shows that only one-third of the smoke alarms originally installed were present and operational, a number of factors play a role in the missing and present, but nonfunctional, alarms. These include tampering with smoke alarms, removal of lithium-powered batteries, and the location of the smoke alarm. To prevent the likelihood of residents interfering with alarm operability, future programs should consider installing tamper-proof, sealed, lithium-powered smoke alarms. Installing alarms with end-of-life indicators would also help occupants recognize when alarms need to be replaced. State health departments should work with fire departments to schedule periodic visits to homes after smoke alarm installation to assess the alarm functionality.

Click here to read the full report.

Massachusetts 2009 Healthy Housing Summit

A Healthy A Healthy Homes Summit for municipal leaders will take place on March 12, 2009 at Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, MA. The summit will provide participants with an opportunity to learn more about the principals of healthy housing and what it means for their communities. Along with delivering a primer on healthy homes, the speakers will shed new light on the concepts behind the Green Communities Act, Green Jobs Act, and Global Warming Solutions Act that were enacted in Massachusetts last year. The speakers for the day will include Rebecca Morley, Executive Director of the National Center for Healthy Housing; Michelle Roberts, founder of Ecohealth Homes; and other leaders from the healthy homes field.

To learn more about this event and to register, please click here.

NCHH Offers Fact sheet Explaining the EPA's Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule

Common renovation activities that disturb lead-based paint, like sanding, cutting, and demolition, can create hazardous lead dust and chips that can be harmful to adults and children. To protect against exposure risk, EPA has issued its “Renovate, Repair, and Painting” rule, requiring the use of lead-safe work practices during renovations in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities. As of April 22, 2010, renovators must be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

To read the fact sheet, click here.

Healthy Housing Solutions, Inc. Is Available to Help with HUD Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control (OHHLHC) Grants

Shortly, HUD's Office of of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control (OHHLHC) is expected to release its Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for 2009 in a staged process from February – April 2009 for the following programs: 

  • Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Grant Program
  • Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Program
  • Healthy Homes Demonstration Program
  • Healthy Homes Technical Studies
  • Green and Healthy Housing Technical Studies (new for 2009)

 See for more information.

Over time, these OHHLHC grant programs have become increasingly competitive with less than 46 percent of eligible applicants receiving grant funds. Another 25 percent of grantees were ineligible since their applications did not achieve the threshold score for funding. If you are considering applying for any of these FY 2009 grant program funds and want to increase your competitive advantage and the likelihood of receiving OHHLHC grant funding, Healthy Housing Solutions, Inc. is available to assist you. Solutions has had an approximately 90 percent success rate with its grant application assistance, helping grantees to secure nearly $30 million since 2003. 

Healthy Housing Solutions, Inc. (Solutions), based in Columbia, Maryland, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH). Since 2003, Solutions has provided federal, state, and local agencies and private sector organizations with professional services including consultation, facilitation, program design and management, and project coordination. 

Solutions has extensive experience and expertise in writing, reviewing, and preparing HUD OHHLHC grant applications. Solutions has assisted states, counties, and municipalities develop competitive and successful grant applications. Solutions’ services include the following:

  • Assistance with strategy development and program design;
  • Grant writing;
  • Technical review of grant applications;
  • Assistance with; and
  • Program implementation assistance in the form of strategic planning, policy and procedure development, staff training, and evaluation and technical assistance.

Please contact Amy Murphy, Senior Program Manager with Healthy Housing Solutions, at 414.429.4075 or to discuss taking advantage of this opportunity. Together, we can assure healthier and safer housing and program sustainability in your jurisdiction!

NCHH In the News

Improved Health Outcomes for Familty after Green and Healthy Rehabilitation

The Robert Wood Johnson Commission to Build a Healthier America recently released a profile of a family living at an apartment complex in southwest Minnesota and their improved health following a healthy and green renovation.

Abang Ojullu and her six children are living proof that one’s environment has a direct impact on health. The family lives at the Viking Terrace apartments in rural Worthington, MN. The complex was renovated in a green and healthy manner by NCHH, Enterprise Community Partners, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, and the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.

Click here to read Abang's full story.

About NCHH

The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in Columbia, Maryland, dedicated to creating healthier homes for children through practical and proven steps. NCHH conducts research on a broad array of housing-related health issues, including mold, radon, asthma triggers, and the promotion of green and healthy building. Additionally, NCHH engages in policy and training activities to promote decent, safe, and affordable housing in the United States.

NCHH anchors the National Healthy Homes Training Center, which is funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since its inception, over 3,000 health and housing practitioners have attended the Training Center. If you are interested in learning more about NCHH or supporting our work or have ideas or comments on our newsletter, please contact Phillip Dodge, Marketing & Development Officer at (443) 539-4168 or

NCHH Supporters (listed alphabetically)
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Enterprise Community Partners
ICF International
The Home Depot Foundation
NeighborWorks America
The Derald H. Ruttenberg Foundation
TD BankNorth
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The Wachovia Foundation