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Introducing NCHH's Healthy Housing Fact Sheets: EPA Region 1

Think about your home community. What makes it special? What specific challenges does it face? I’m sure, if given the chance, we could all go on at length about the individuality in the places we live and work. Those of us doing policy work at national organizations spend much of our time focused on the big picture, but the healthy housing needs of each state are unique and varied. We are far more effective as an advocacy community when we remember to take advantage of the perspective and challenges each state brings.

That’s why the National Center for Healthy Housing has created 53 state healthy housing profiles – including the District of Columbia and an overview of the whole U.S. – for use by policy makers and advocates across the country. Each fact sheet offers eight statistics about the healthy housing situation in each state, covering topics including asthma prevalence and financial burden, childhood lead poisoning numbers and age of housing, radon levels, carbon monoxide fatalities, and unintentional falls among older adults. The fact sheets also tell you which of 11 programs at CDCHUD, and EPA are currently funding your state efforts. Most information was found from federal or state governments, and each fact is hyperlinked back to the source material.

EPA Region 1

Throughout 2018, we’re posting highlights of our state fact sheets by EPA region, one region per month. In January, we’re starting off with EPA Region 1: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

  • It’s well known among the healthy housing community that the Northeast typically has older housing stock than other parts of the country, and that is one of the first things that sticks out among these six states. Between 55% and 73% of housing in each state was built before lead paint was outlawed in 1978; 20-30% was built before 1940.
  • In 2015, the combined regional total of blood lead level tests over 5 µg/dL, the CDC action level, was 9,148. Forty percent (40%) of New Hampshire children are estimated to have had elevated blood lead levels at some point in their lives.
  • The region also shares high predicted and tested radon levels. In Connecticut, one in five homes has elevated radon; in Maine and New Hampshire, this number is nearly one in three. An estimated 628 cases of radon-related lung cancer occur in Massachusetts each year.
  • Rhode Island has the highest proportion of residents 85 and older in the U.S. at 15.8%, and nearly one in four Rhode Islanders are over 65. Risk of falling is a particular healthy housing issue for older adults. For example, hospital charges for unintentional falls among older adults totaled over $630 million in Massachusetts in 2010.
  • Another medical expense that has proved costly to the region is emergency asthma treatment. In 2014, Connecticut spent $135 million on acute care where asthma was the primary diagnosis; in 2012, Rhode Island spent $21 million on asthma hospitalizations.
  • The region also boasts some healthy housing milestones. Vermont was the first state to lower its definition of elevated blood lead levels to 5 µg/dL. This legislation was passed in 2008.
  • Maine was one of 14 states and localities that benefited from the additional funding for CDC’s Lead Poisoning Prevention program passed in December 2016.

Other NCHH Resources

NCHH’s state fact sheets will be updated annually with current information. For questions or comments, please email Laura Fudala at


Sarah Goodwin joined NCHH as a Policy Analyst in June 2017. She previously served NCHH as a policy intern, helping to establish and run the Find It, Fix It, Fund It lead action drive and its workgroups. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government from American University.

Decorating for the Holidays: How to Hang Your Lights Safely This Year

Jingle all the the ER? According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are about 12,000 or more reported emergencies involving holiday lighting each year. But that’s certainly not what you want to be thinking about when you’re gathered round the tree.

The best present you can give yourself this year is a little peace of mind. And that’s not too hard to do when you follow best practices for seasonal lighting. With the proper equipment and lighting techniques, you can avoid a holiday disaster, and still get the most beautiful lights on the block.

Replace Incandescent String Lights with LEDs

LED lights usually get promoted solely for their energy efficiency—but they also run much cooler than incandescent lights, as well. In consumer testing, LEDs ran over 200 degrees cooler than comparable incandescent lights, a trend that translates over to your seasonal decorations, as well. Cooler lights means less danger for combustion, so LEDs are typically considered safer than their incandescent counterparts.

Of course, simply purchasing LED lights can’t root out every problem. You also need to make sure you use safe practices with extension cords and outlets, as well. But they can certainly eliminate some of the risks associated with decorating—which is definitely one way to make things merry and bright!

Use Caution When Hanging Exterior Lights

We’ve all seen the damage that can come from improper lighting techniques (if not, stop reading this article, watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and come back). However, unlike in the realm of fiction, accidents here can result in serious injuries that are nothing to laugh about.

If you’re hanging lights high, make sure that you have a sturdy ladder, and stand it on even ground. Move the ladder as you go instead of reaching too far to your left or your right. Invest in a set of light holders rather than using nails or a staple gun—and give yourself some extra cookies for being smarter than Clark Griswold.

Look Your Lights Over

A lot can happen in a year while lights are stored away in the attic. Make sure to give every strand a visual inspection—and don’t chance it with frayed or damaged lights.

Plug string lights in before hanging them. If they don’t light up, then they’re no good to you anyway, and it will save you the hassle of hanging your lights, only to have to take them all down again. And who needs that wasted time during this busy season?

Use the Proper Lights, Cords, and Outlets

Minus the right equipment, even the most magical light display can go sour fast. If you’re putting lights outdoors this year, make sure both the lights and any extension cords you use are rated for exterior use. Lights should be waterproof, as well, to protect them from wintry weather. Also, check that your cords are UL-approved—this independent consumer safety group tests commercial electrical products to verify their safety.

Outlets, too, need to be chosen with safety in mind. Install lights on a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. As the name suggests, this kind of outlet will interrupt the electrical circuit if the outlet becomes overloaded. Obviously, you should avoid plugging too many different lights into the same outlet, as well, but this will help you avoid sparks if you happen to go overboard.

With some lighting smarts, the only fires you’ll be seeing this year will be for those roasting chestnuts! Wishing you and your family a happy and safe holiday!


Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener, and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX, where she writes full time for Modernize with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

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