June Is National Healthy Homes Month
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In the U.S. today, people spend close to 90% of their time indoors. National Healthy Homes Month (NHHM), created by HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH), is an outreach campaign designed to help people connect the dots between their health and their home. This year’s overarching theme “Growing Up Safe and Healthy: 5 Minutes to a Healthy Home”, focuses on the importance of home assessments, and the impact awareness can have on your health; and to empower people to make a change in order to create the healthiest home possible for their family.
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, and lead poisoning. The health and economic burdens from preventable hazards associated within the home are considerable, and cost billions of dollars.
Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. In many cases, source control is also a more cost-efficient approach to protecting indoor air quality than increasing ventilation because increasing ventilation can increase energy costs. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.
It is particularly important to take as many of these steps as possible while you are involved in short-term activities that can generate high levels of pollutants — for example, painting, paint stripping, heating with kerosene heaters, cooking, or engaging in maintenance and hobby activities such as welding, soldering, or sanding. You might also choose to do some of these activities outdoors if you can and if weather permits.
Advanced designs of new homes are starting to feature mechanical systems that bring outdoor air into the home. Some of these designs include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators (also known as air-to-air heat exchangers).
Natural ventilation describes air movement through open windows and doors. If used properly natural ventilation can at times help moderate the indoor air temperature, which may become too hot in homes without air-conditioning systems or when power outages or brownouts (intentional drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system) limit or make the use of air conditioning impossible.
Natural ventilation can also improve indoor air quality by reducing pollutants that are indoors. Examples of natural ventilation are:
- opening windows and doors
- window shading such as closing the blinds
Most residential forced air-heating systems and air-conditioning systems do not bring outdoor air into the house mechanically, and infiltration and natural ventilation are relied upon to bring outdoor air into the home. Advanced designs for new homes are starting to add a mechanical feature that brings outdoor air into the home through the HVAC system. Some of these designs include energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators to mitigate the cost of cooling and heating this air during the summer and winter.
For more information on National Healthy Homes Month 2019, please visit their website or visit Shenile Ford, County Director at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Greene County office; 229 Kingold Blvd. Ste. E. Snow Hill, NC.
Source: NC Healthy Homes 2019