Mold? Leaky Roof? Obama Administration Says All Americans Must Have 'Healthy Housing'

February 8, 2013 - 10:14 AM

lead paint

Peeling lead paint is one of the hazards the Obama's administration's new "Advancing Healthy Homes" initiative seeks to remedy. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Under the broad banner of "health," the federal government not only is telling Americans what to eat, it's also telling us to make our homes safer.

This week, the Obama administration released a "bold new vision for addressing the nation's health and economic burdens caused by preventable hazards associated with the home."

The project has a name: "Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action."

"People in the United States spend about 70% of their time in a home," the announcement said.

"Currently, millions of U.S. homes have moderate to severe physical housing problems, including dilapidated structure; roofing problems; heating, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies; water leaks and intrusion; pests; damaged paint; and high radon gas levels. These conditions are associated with a wide range of health issues, including unintentional injuries, respiratory illnesses like asthma and radon-induced lung cancer, lead poisoning, result in lost school days for children, as well as lost productivity in the labor force." 

According to the Obama administration, the health and economic burdens from preventable hazards associated with both subsidized and privately owned homes cost billions of dollars.

The new strategy "unifies" federal efforts to advance healthy housing -- "demonstrating the connection between housing conditions and residents’ health."

The federal partners pushing healthy housing include the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Surgeon General, and Energy Department.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan says the federal government must do "everything we can to ensure that individuals and families have a healthy place to call home." He said the strategy "will help the federal government unify action (on) controlling and preventing major housing-related exposures and hazards."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the government now has a "specific plan for action to address radon and other preventable hazards found in homes across the country." The strategy, she added, "is a critical step" toward ensuring that "Americans in all communities have healthy places to live, work and play."

The healthy homes strategy sets five goals for reducing the number of substandard homes:

-- Establish healthy homes recommendations (homes should be dry, clean, pest-free, safe, contaminant-free, well-ventilated, and well-maintained and thermally controlled);

-- Encourage adoption of healthy homes recommendations (federal, state and local regulations);

-- Create and support training and workforce development to address health hazards in housing (train people for new jobs in green energy and construction);

-- Educate the public about healthy homes (advertising campaigns telling Americans how their homes ought to be)

-- Support research that advances healthy housing in a cost-effective manner (taxpayer-funded grants to study the problem).

A 2013 report from the "Federal Healthy Homes Work Group" notes that "susceptible and vulnerable populations, such as children, the poor, minorities, individuals with behavioral health issues, and people with chronic medical conditions, may be disproportionately impacted by inadequate housing."

The report also says many home-based hazards are preventable -- "and opportunities exist for intervention programs that would not only reduce health impacts on
occupants, but the economic burden as well, resulting in a positive return on investment."

[cns-donate]