Healthy Housing Connections, Fall 2008


I am pleased to introduce NCHH's e-newsletter, Healthy Housing Connections. Every quarter, we will bring you the latest information on NCHH's research, policy activities, and training and technical assistance offerings through the National Healthy Homes Training Center.

Each newsletter will include answers to your practical questions in a section called "Ask NCHH." This month our experts answer questions about the impact of carpeting on health and recommended strategies for replacing, cleaning, and maintaining carpets.

Also in this issue, we discuss opportunities for creating healthier housing through the nation's green building programs. In a new analysis of the major national green building programs, NCHH found that green building upgrades show great promise toward improving the health of families. Yet, several programs are missing critical elements, such as injury prevention.

In our effort to spark a national movement for healthier, affordable housing, we need to reach many audiences with practical and accessible information, such as the information in this newsletter. Please consider showing your support for NCHH by clicking on the "Give Now" button below and making a financial contribution today.

Thank you. We hope you find Healthy Housing Connections helpful and informative.

With warm wishes for a healthy home,

Rebecca Morley
Executive Director, National Center for Healthy Housing

In This Issue:

How Healthy are National Green Building Programs?

Experts Identify Scientific Basis for Healthy Homes Interventions

"Finding Commong Ground" Meeting identifies Opportunities for Implementing Healthy Housing Interventions

HUD Announces Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)

The National Healthy Homes Training Center

Ask NCHH: Is Carpeting Unhealthy?

NCHH Provides Information to Homeowners Affected by Midwestern Flooding

Today Show Highlights the Issue of Childhood Lead Poisoning

Main Feature

How Healthy are National Green Building Programs?

The green building market has exploded over the last several years, with consumers demanding homes that are healthier for their families, better for the environment, and less expensive to operate (i.e. energy-efficient). NCHH compared various green building guidelines with NCHH's own set of recommended healthy housing criteria to determine whether these programs adequately protect residents from housing conditions known to affect health status, such as asthma and respiratory disease, unintentional injuries, allergic reactions, cancer, and other health effects from contaminants and allergens. The analysis examined building guidelines produced by both the public and private sectors, including Enterprise Community Partners Green Communities Criteria, National Association of Home Builders' Green Home Building Guidelines, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star with Indoor Air Package, and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes.

Overall, the analysis suggests that green building programs offer a significant opportunity to achieve public health benefits and have the potential to transform the housing market toward healthier building. The Enterprise Community Partners' Green Communities Program and the U.S. EPA's Indoor Air Package ranked the highest among the programs included in the analysis. This is due largely to the fact that they include many mandatory criteria for the indoor environment, compared to programs whose criteria were optional. The results show that while all the programs have components aimed at improving resident health, many are missing critical elements. For example, injury prevention is omitted from all of the guidelines, and protection from contaminants such as lead and pesticides are not uniformly covered.

The report also suggests ways that green building programs can strengthen their occupant health criteria to deliver even greater benefits to the families who reside in them.

To read the complete report, click here.

NCHH Research

Experts Identify Scientific Basis for Healthy Homes Interventions

expert panel meeting panelistsOn December 11 and 12, 2007, NCHH joined the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in convening some of the nation's leading healthy housing researchers and practitioners in a comprehensive literature review of healthy housing intervention studies. Panelists identified interventions that currently have sufficient evidence of effectiveness to recommend immediate implementation, as well as others for which further research is needed. Examples of interventions identified as ready for immediate implementation include, but are not limited to:

  • Use of multi-faceted tailored interventions for asthma, including education based on social learning theory, use of mattress and pillow covers, use of HEPA vacuums and air filters, smoking cessation, cockroach extermination, and bedroom cleaning;
  • Use of integrated pest management interventions, including household cleaning and tool dispensing, professional cleaning, education of residents, use of baits, use of low-toxicity pesticides, and structural repairs;
  • Installation of active radon mitigation systems in high-risk areas where radon exposures are high;
  • Implementation of non-residential smoking bans; and
  • Installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to reduce death and injury from fire and carbon monoxide, respectively.

To read the meeting minutes and view the complete list of interventions, click here.


"Finding Common Ground" Meeting Identifies Opportunities for Implementing Healthy Housing Interventions

Leaders in housing, health, and related fields met on June 30-July 1, 2008 to identify key opportunities and mechanisms (e.g., regulation, education, and training) through which adverse health outcomes from housing can be dramatically reduced. The "Finding Common Ground" meeting was hosted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and facilitated by NCHH. It focused on policies and programs for existing housing, particularly renter-occupied housing. During the meeting, participants reviewed the scientific evidence that emerged from a December 2007 Healthy Homes Expert Panel Meeting (see article above) and identified interventions that could be considered for widespread implementation. Potential strategies included, but were not limited to, identifying low-cost interventions for stairs (e.g., improving treads, adding handrails, improving lighting), installing CO alarms in existing housing, advertising smoke-free housing, requiring radon testing at the point of sale, changing the International Property Maintenance Code to include lead safe work practices, and providing tax credits for weatherization conducted in a lead-safe manner.

To read the complete summary of the "Finding Common Ground" meeting, click here.

HUD announces Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)

On September 26, HUD announced the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), which will provide $3.92 billion to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties that might otherwise become sources of abandonment and blight within their communities. The funding is provided through HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. These targeted funds will be used to purchase foreclosed homes at a discount and to rehabilitate or redevelop them in order to respond to rising foreclosures and falling home values.

While some regulatory flexibility is granted to expedite the use of the funds, it appears that the environmental regulations (including lead-based paint) remain intact for this program. The NSP provides a key opportunity to ensure that homes that are currently sitting vacant and falling into disrepair will be rehabilitated in a healthy and green manner.

To learn more about NSP, please visit the following links or e-mail Rebecca Morley at

HUD's press release

Allocation Amounts

HUD Methodology


Training and Technical Assistance

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

Ask NCHH: Is Carpeting Unhealthy?

If I have carpeting in my home, what should I do to make it healthier for my family? 
If you steam clean carpet, be sure to dry it thoroughly to avoid lingering moisture that can attract pests or lead to mold. If possible, replace carpeting when it is worn or heavily soiled, and be sure to clean second-hand rugs before using them.

Should I avoid installing wall-to-wall carpet?
You should avoid wall-to-wall carpet in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, or other areas of a home where moisture is a potential problem. Instead, use hard flooring with non-skid features. Small area rugs, such as bath mats, may be used in these rooms to help protect against slips and falls and for comfort, but they should be washed frequently. Choose water-resistant floors in basements and other rooms that are directly above the ground. 

If I decide to remove carpeting, what flooring option should I replace it with?
Consider replacing carpeting with a smooth, non-absorbent, non-skid surface. Hard flooring options to consider include wood, ceramic, linoleum, rubber, marmoleum (a natural floor covering manufactured with linseed oil, wood, flour, resin, jute, and finely crushed limestone and mineral pigments), and wood laminate. There is emerging evidence that some hard flooring (such as vinyl flooring) containing phthalates (a type of plasticizer) may contribute to asthma. These types of floors should be avoided, or at a minimum they should be cleaned regularly with a damp mop to reduce dust. You should also use care when removing carpet to ensure that contaminated dust or allergens in the carpeting are not made accessible to occupants

If I want to install carpet in my home, are there certain types of carpeting that are better for my family?
If you install carpeting, allow the carpeting to thoroughly air out before using the area. Consider buying a carpet that has a Green Label or Green Label Plus from the Carpet Research Institute to reduce exposure to harmful volatile organic compounds that can be used in carpeting or adhesive. Also consider installing low-pile carpet, which is easier to clean than high-pile carpet.

This information was excerpted from a new NCHH fact sheet summarizing the research regarding carpets and healthy homes. To view the complete fact sheet, click here.

If you have questions you would like addressed in the "Ask NCHH" section of future e-newsletters, please email them to Phillip Dodge, NCHH Marketing and Development Officer, at

NCHH In the News

NCHH Provides Information to Homeowners Affected by Midwestern Flooding

Weeks of heavy rains brought severe flooding to communities along the Mississippi River in June 2008. Homes from Iowa to Missouri endured extensive damage and required evacuation.  As homeowners and community agencies embarked on clean-up efforts of flooded homes, NCHH collaborated with NeighborWorks America to provide guidance through the distribution of Creating a Healthy Home: A Field Guide for Clean-up of Flooded Homes. This guide was originally developed in 2005 with funding and technical support from Enterprise Community Partners, and was field tested on four homes in New Orleans following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Ten thousand copies of the guide were reprinted and distributed to affected areas in the Midwest throughout June and July 2008 through the generous support of The Home Depot Foundation. If you would like a copy, please contact Christopher Bloom at

To read the full press release, click here.

Today Show Highlights the Issue of Childhood Lead Poisoning

On Tuesday, July 15, the Today Show featured a segment on childhood lead poisoning and lead-safe renovation. NCHH's executive director, Rebecca Morley, joined Today Show anchor Janice Lieberman to provide background on the problem of lead poisoning and information about ways to protect families. Lee Wasserman of Lew Corporation carried out a lead inspection of a turn-of-the-century home in New Jersey to illustrate the places where lead is often found. Tamara Rubin was interviewed regarding her experience with a painting contractor who claimed to be trained in lead-safe work practices but then did everything exactly wrong - even going so far as to use an open-flame torch to burn off paint. As a result, Mrs. Rubin's youngest children were exposed to high levels of lead. We hope that this media coverage will alert families to the dangers of lead and make it clear that it is an ever-present and serious health concern. To view the Today clip, click here

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
The Home Depot Foundation
NeighborWorks America
The Derald H. Ruttenberg Foundation
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The Wachovia Foundation