Part 1 of this post focused on the first three principles of healthy housing: dry, clean and ventilated. In Part 2 to help create healthier real estate environments we focus on the final four principles: contaminant-free, pest-free, safe, and maintained.

Principle 4: Contaminant-Free

Chemical exposures include lead, radon, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and environmental tobacco smoke. Exposures to asbestos particles, radon gas, carbon monoxide, and second-hand tobacco smoke are far higher indoors than outside. To keep the home free from contaminants, NCHH suggests:

Avoid smoking inside.

Test for radon in the lowest level of your home to prevent lung cancer from radon exposure. Learn more about radon and how to receive a discounted radon home test kit by contacting your state radon office at www.epa.gov/radon or call 1-800-SOS-Radon.

Hire a professional to test for lead in homes built before 1978. Call 1-800-424-LEAD to find a professional in your area.

Principle 5: Pest-Free

Exposures to pests in the home, such as mice and cockroaches, have been linked to asthma episodes in children. Since pesticide residue in the home brings risks for neurological damage and cancer, NCHH cautions against using pesticides and instead encourages parents and caregivers to take the following steps:

Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a safer and usually less-costly option for effective pest management. It includes:

Reducing sources of food, water, and shelter for pests by filling cracks and crevices with copper mesh, expanding foam, cement, and caulk.

Using trash cans with sealable covers to prevent rodent and pest infestation.

Avoid spraying and fogging, which are harmful to your health.

Principle 6: Safe

The majority of injuries among children occur in the home. Falls are the most common cause of residential injuries to children, followed by injuries from objects in the home, burns, and poisonings. To prevent home injuries, NCHH recommends the following actions:

Install nightlights in dark hallways and bathrooms to help prevent falls.

Install non-skid pads under carpets to help prevent slips, trips, and falls.

Place a smoke detector on each level of the home, including the basement to prevent fire-related deaths.

Place a carbon monoxide alarm on each floor of the home to protect against carbon monoxide poisonings. Place the alarms outside sleeping areas and at least 15 feet from heating or cooking appliances.

Set water heater thermostats to 120 °F or below the “medium” setting and install anti-scald devices in water faucets and shower heads to prevent scalds.

Principle 7: Maintained

Poorly maintained homes are vulnerable to moisture and pest problems. Deteriorated lead-based paint in older housing is the primary cause of lead poisoning, which affects approximately 240,000 U.S. children. NCHH recommends the following practices to keep the home maintained:

Fix peeling lead-based paint in homes built before 1978. Hire a contractor trained in lead safety for renovations and major repairs to homes built before 1978.

For maximum filtration, replace furnace filters every four months with a minimum energy reporting value (MERV) 11 filter.

NCHH’s healthy homes cost and maintenance check list offers additional tips to create a healthy home. Go to http://www.nchh.org/Portals/0/Contents/Steps_for_Creating_a_Healthier_Home2009 .pdf to download the checklist:

The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is the only national scientific and technical nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthy and safe homes for children through practical and proven steps. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards, to alert low- income families about housing-related health risks, and to help them protect their children.

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