Protecting children and families from exposure to environmental toxins in their homes
Promoting lead-safe, healthy private housing. Making housing healthy is a key to eliminating lead poisoning and many other health problems caused by children's exposures to environmental contaminants. One of our major strategies over the past 15 years is the development and implementation of local legislation to make older private housing and child care centers lead-safe for children. At HCOP's request, the Lead Hazard Reduction Citizens Advisory Committee was formed in 1993 by the San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to provide legislative recommendations about how to make private housing lead-safe. The Committee's members include representatives of landlords, tenants, contractors, unions, relevant city agencies, lead hazard experts and more. HCOP's director chaired the committee since inception. The Committee recommended several pieces of legislation enacted by the Board and signed by the Mayor. With HCOP's leadership, the Committee most recently completed a set of recommendations requiring that lead-safe work practices be used when disturbing paint inside all pre-1979 rental housing and child care facilities. HCOP facilitated the approval process before the Board of Supervisors. That process included finding an author for legislation incorporating the Committee's recommendations and gaining support for it from other supervisors and community members. The Board approved it and the mayor signed it in June 2004. HCOP will be actively involved for several years to ensure its full implementation. This is landmark legislation that is being replicated elsewhere. See the previous discussion in the "Our History of Success: Promoting Healthy Homes."
Promoting mold-safe, healthy public housing.HCOP has successfully advocated for 15 years that public housing be made lead-safe. Those conditions have improved, in part because several hazardous structures were replaced. However, high rates of child and adult asthma continue to exist in public housing. For that reason, we are participating in efforts to make tenants' homes mold-safe and educating tenants about how to maintain their homes to avoid the creation of mold hazards. HCOP employs several strategies in this effort. HCOP worked with community-based groups serving tenants, health providers, and city agencies who already have relationships with a number of the Authority's tenants, to educate all tenants about preventing environmental hazards in their homes, getting those hazards remediated, and managing their asthma. We collaborate with the city's Asthma Task Force, the Department of Public Health [DPH], and the Department of Building Inspection [DBI] to reduce the mold and mildew existing in public housing. In 2004 the Task Force met with Housing Authority staff several times and engaged in a lengthy analysis of its efforts and tenant's complaints concerning the poor environmental conditions in their units. In 2005, the Task Force called for a Board of Supervisors's hearing. One of the main recommendations to a Board subcommittee is to make sure that the Authority's mold inspections and remediation work are as effective as possible so the mold won't return in a few weeks or months. Subsequently, the Task Force convinced the Board to provide funds administered by the Department of Health to help improve the quality of the Authority's mold and mildew remediation work. The Task Force is also working with tenant representatives, the Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services program and community groups to help educate tenants about their rights and what they can do to help maintain their homes in an asthma-safe condition.
Learn more about what you can do to protect young children from exposures to environmental hazards in the home by checking out these websites:
- The Children's Health Environmental Coalition has a HealtheHouse that gives a virtual tour of potential toxins in the home. It also has a link to an extensive database of consumer home products and furnishings that contain toxic chemicals:
- The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health has educational materials in both English and Spanish on how to make a healthy home for a healthy child:
- The Alliance for Healthy Homes website contains good information on how to make housing healthy. http://www.aeclp.org [It was formerly known as the Alliance to Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning.]
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has an Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control that works to eliminate lead and other environmental hazards in housing. http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/
- The Clean Water Fund's website provides information about hazardous household products and safer alternatives: http://www.cleanwaterfund.org/SafeHome.htm
- The American Lung Association features tipsheets on how to avoid asthma triggers in the home: http://www.healthhouse.org/tipsheets/default.asp
- Breast Cancer Action's website has information on safe household products alternatives and other hazardous consumer products like cosmetics: http://www.bcaction.org/Pages/GetInformed/NonToxicHome.html
- The Environmental Working Group's website reports the results of the most compre-hensive study ever conducted of multiple chemical contaminants in humans. Blood and urine from nine people were tested for 210 chemicals that are used in consumer products and result from industrial pollution. EWG recently published the results of its findings from another study regarding the large number of toxic chemicals found in babies' blood cord samples provided by the American Red Cross. The website has a link to a large database of personal care products for adults and children that contain toxic chemicals. http://www.ewg.org/ On the home page look at the items in the "quick index" and check out "body burden" and "cosmetics" and the related data based of personal care products often used in the home.
Learn more about asthma in general at the following websites:
- The California Air Resources Board features a website dedicated to asthma and air pollution and its prevalence in California's populations, especially young children. The CARB recently published a report to the California legislature regarding indoor air quality in California homes, which it concluded is worse than outdoor air quality, especially for young children. Begin at:http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/asthma/asthma.htm
- The American Lung Association's website has in-depth information on asthma at http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=33276 as does Breathe California at http://www.lungrus.org.
- Community Action to Fight Asthma's website features a briefing kit containing science-based referenced fact sheets on reducing the risk of asthma in Californian children at
- The California Indoor Air Quality Program's website has links to a number of asthma-related issues. http://www.cal-iaq.org//iaqsheet.htm See also the State Department of Health Services "California Breathing" website: