Healthy Housing Facts

Substandard Housing:

  • There are currently 5.7 million units classified as substandard (American Housing Survey, 2007).
  •  Rats infested 2.7 million of 97 million occupied housing units (American Housing Survey, 1997). More recently, CDC-supported surveys in two inner city neighborhoods, documented that at least 50% of the premises were infested by rats and mice.

Lead Poisoning:

  • An estimated 240,000 children in the U.S. have elevated blood lead levels (CDC 2003). In cities such as Providence, Baltimore, Rochester, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Philadelphia, more than one-third of preschool children are poisoned by lead.
  • Children from low-income communities are eight times more likely to suffer from lead poisoning. Children from communities of color are five times more likely to suffer from lead poisoning.


  • Asthma rates have increased by over 160% since 1980, and healthcare costs for asthma care are estimated at more than $6 billion a year. Additional costs stem from the more than 10 million missed schooldays a year. 
  • The prevalence of asthma is 40-50% higher among minority children living in U.S. cities.
  • Recent studies show a casual relationship between exposure to mice and cockroaches and asthma episodes in children.


  • Nearly 7 million persons in the United States were disabled for at least one day by unintentional injuries that occurred at home. During the same period, there were 28,400 preventable deaths attributed to unintentional home injuries (CDC, 1997).
  • Each year in the United States, over 200 people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2000). Common sources of CO in homes include gas and oil furnaces, boilers, water heaters, wood burning fireplaces and stoves, gas appliances, and blocked chimneys and flues.


  • More than 20,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer each year. It is the second-leading cause of lung cancer.
  • Many products and materials used in modern homes contain chemicals that have known or suspected health effects. The sources of indoor chemical exposure include building materials, consumer products, and combustion processes. Indoor combustion appliances can release a wide range of compounds that affect respiratory health, including: nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and fine particulate matter (PM).
  • More than 75% of U.S. households report the use of pesticides. Many of these pesticides are known to affect human health through numerous biological mechanisms including those affecting the respiratory, nervous, immune and reproductive systems.

Costs of Unhealthy Housing:

  • The total annual costs for environmentally attributable childhood diseases in the U.S.—lead poisoning, asthma, and cancer—is $54.9 billion. This amount is approximately 3% of total health care costs. (Landrigan et al., 2002)

Learn More