Healthy Homes Frequently Asked Questions

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Answering the public's questions on healthy homes, lead poisoning, asthma, and related issues.

  • What is a healthy home?
    • A healthy home is a home that is:

      DRY: Water can enter the home either through leaks from the outside (roofs, walls, or the foundation); leaks from the inside (showers, toilets, or pipes); and condensation. Keep the home dry in order to keep it free of problems caused by water damage.

      CLEAN: Clean homes help prevent exposure to pests, allergens, contaminants that may be present. When the home is clean, it is easier to keep it that way.

      VENTILATED: When you keep fresh air ventilating in the home, it prevents hazards in the air from staying in the home. By keeping air moving through the home, you reduce the concentration of allergens, smoke, mold, and dangerous gases in the air.

      PEST-FREE: Pests like mice, cockroaches, or bedbugs enter the home looking for food, water, and shelter. They can transmit diseases, bring allergens with them, and cause people to use dangerous chemicals to get rid of them. Prevent them from entering the home and your family will be healthier.

      SAFE: The most common causes of home injury are: falls, fires, poisoning, choking, firearms, and drowning. By making safe choices during everyday activities in the home, you can prevent all of those injuries.

      CONTAMINANT-FREE: Potentially dangerous chemicals are found in many households. Lead is a metal found in the paint of many homes built before 1978 and is toxic if swallowed. Other household products such as pesticides and cleaning products may also contain dangerous chemicals that cause serious health problems if not used correctly. Instead, use natural and green cleaning products.

      MAINTAINED: No matter how much work you put into your keeping your home safe and healthy, some problems will inevitably develop over time. Regularly inspecting and safely repairing your home will prevent problems from becoming hazardous to your health.
  • What are the consequences of an unhealthy home?
    • Poor housing conditions can lead to a number of health problems, such as allergies, asthma, carbon monoxide poisoning, unintentional injuries (such as falls and burns), lead poisoning, insect or rodent bites, lung cancer (from tobacco smoke and radon), unintentional poisoning (from pesticides and other volatile organic compounds), and respiratory illness.
  • What is lead poisoning? Why should lead be avoided?
    • Lead is a home health and safety hazard that harms a child’s brain, causing lifelong learning and behavioral problems. When lead dust is ingested or inhaled, even in miniscule amounts, it can cause significant and irreversible brain damage as well as other health problems.
  • What are some symptoms of lead poisoning?
    • Symptoms of lead poisoning include stomachache and cramps, irritability, fatigue, frequent vomiting, constipation, headache, sleep disorders, and poor appetite, among others.
  • How much lead is dangerous?
    • Any amount of lead can be dangerous. Lead dust that is the equivalent to only 3 grains of sugar can being to poison a child. The CDC has recommended that public health actions be initiated in children under age 6 who have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter.
  • Where does lead exposure occur?
    • There are three main soures of lead within cities - in old paint, water pipes, and soil particulates. In Detroit, most childhood lead poisoning occurs due to old lead-based paint.

      Homes built before 1978 (when the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-based paint) have a good chance of containing lead. Lead from paint, including dust that has been contaminated with lead particles, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning. Approximately 94% of Detroit houses were built before 1980.

      Soil lead is also a problem in Detroit, which was ranked 4th among 90 American cities for the amount of lead in the soil.
  • What are the consequences of lead poisoning?
    • Even very low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavior and learning problems. 
  • How can unhealthy homes cause or exacerbate asthma?
    • Mold and pests are the most significant contributors to asthma. Mold can grow almost anywhere as the result of humidity or interior moisture, caused by water leaks, spills, or condensation. Pests such as cockroaches, rodents, and bed bugs, as well as the chemicals used to control them, can cause and trigger allergies and asthma by contaminating indoor air. Removing mold and pests is the best way to reduce asthma attacks and exacerbations.
  • What is radon and how can it affect my health?
    • Radon is a colorless, odorless, invisible gas that can only be detected through having your home tested for radon. It is a radioactive gas that is produced by the natural decay of uranium found in the soil. Radon is proven to cause cancer, usually lung cancer. Radon typically enters the home through cracks in foundations and solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavaties inside walls, or the water supply.