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How the President’s Budget Impacts Healthy Housing

The National Center for Healthy Housing is saddened to see the priorities being presented by the president’s FY19 Federal Budget Request. We know that Congress can do better.

We believe most Americans care about health and that our budget should reflect that, but some of the core federal agency programs that work to keep us all healthier will be underfunded or canceled under the president’s latest proposal. Below are just the programs that NCHH tracks and reports on to advocates and policy makers regularly; many more are also on the chopping block in the president’s budget.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

  • Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes: The president’s budget is $145 million; our request is $230 million. The $145 million is the same as the 2017 request and lower than the Senate’s FY18 number of $160 million. As our understanding of the impact of exposure and the cost-effectiveness of investing in eliminating lead hazards grows, certainly the funding that works to thwart lead exposure and hazards should be keeping pace.
    • Within this program, the president’s budget removes $5 million from the healthy homes account—from $30 million to $25 million—and redistributes those funds to the lead account. 
  • CDBG, HOME, and LIHEAP: The president’s budget zeroes out these programs, which provide vital services to low-income and underserved populations across the country. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program alone feeds into myriad programs across the states that effect the health and well-being of Americans of all ages.
Learn more about HUD’s valuable programs and services with NCHH’s new Healthy Homes Agency Fact Sheet

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Eliminates Indoor Air and Radon Programs. We request level funding for these programs. 
    • Indoor Air: Radon, previously funded at $2.91 million.
    • Reduce Risk from Indoor Air, previously funded at $13.733 million.
  • Eliminates Lead and Radon Categorical Grants. We request level funding for these programs. 
    • Radon Categorical Grant: previously funded at $8.051 million.
    • Lead Categorical Grant: previously funded at $14.049 million. 
  • Eliminates the Lead Risk Reduction Program, which was previously funded at $13.275 million; we request level funding for this program
    • Lead paint certifications will continue, through the Chemical Risk Review and Reduction Program, but this program is also getting a minor cut. 
    • The budget states that “Other forms of lead exposure are addressed through other targeted programs, such as the State Revolving Funds, to replace lead pipes.” 1 
  • Decreases the Children and Other Sensitive Populations program, under Information Exchange/Outreach, from $6.548 million to $2.081 million. We request level funding for this program.

Learn more about EPA’s valuable programs and services with NCHH’s new Healthy Homes Agency Fact Sheet.
 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Environmental Health 

Learn more about CDC’s valuable programs and services with NCHH’s new Healthy Homes Agency Fact Sheet. NCHH has also created a fact sheet for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is CDC’s parent agency.

Other Impacted Line Items

A Note on the Impact of the President’s Budget on State Funding

A note about how these changes would directly impact state budgets: NCHH tracks 11 grant/funding programs on our state healthy housing fact sheets. Between the eliminations and cuts at HHS, CDC, HUD, EPA, and DOE, this budget cuts or eliminates at least seven of them (eight if you count the expiring CDC lead money as a cut). 

The president and his administration have identified their priorities in this new budget. We'll do all we can to convince Congress of the necessity and cost-effective return on investment of these reduced or eliminated programs and implore Congress to restore programs to present funding levels or increase funding, as well as continue to work to educate the administration about what these programs do to have impact on the long-term health of the entire country. If you'd like to join us in that effort, please join our distribution list

1 One wonders how eliminating this program and the state grants supports Administrator Pruitt’s statement to other federal agencies that “All areas of lead exposure – from lead pipes to contaminated soil – need to be pursued and addressed in a comprehensive and consistent approach” (from the invitation to the principal’s meeting).



Citations:

CDC FY19 Budget Documents 
EPA FY19 Budget Documents 
All of our FY18 request numbers and justifications live here



Darcy Scott,
NCHH Senior Policy Adviser, has been engaged in federal advocacy efforts for over 15 years. She has worked with a number of large-scale organizations, such as the ACLU and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, to influence legislators through public engagement. Ms. Scott ran the government affairs department at M+R Strategic Services, leveraging the power of organizations and coalitions to influence the legislative process, and her consulting clients include Habitat for Humanity International and United Way Worldwide. Ms. Scott holds an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University and a graduate degree from Northwestern University. 

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 work groups. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government from American University.

Safety's No Accident: A New Year's Resolution Has Us Buzzing about Alarms and Detectors

This past weekend, I began a home project that would improve the safety of our home, make our home compliant with Maryland state law, and achieve a New Year’s resolution. The project was going to involve 10-year sealed battery smoke alarms. As I’ll explain in a series of future blogs, the home project ended up having a couple of twists and turns, as often happens with DIY work. But rest assured, in less than half a day, my home is now safer and in compliance with the law. Resolution met, with three blog stories to write instead of one. The following is the blog story I expected to write.


Smoke Alarms Save Lives

The evidence is clear. Yet, what is also clear is that even though our fire departments remind us twice a year to check our smoke alarm batteries when we change our clocks, this does not always happen.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work on an important study. The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) partnered with the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control to assess the effectiveness of a program to distribute and install battery-powered smoke alarms nationwide. In a report released in 2008, we found that, 8-10 years after installation, only about one-third of the smoke alarms were still operational. Thirty percent (30%) of the smoke alarms were present, but the battery was missing or dead.

Smoke Alarm Recommendations

To address this significant problem, we recommended in the Journal of Community Health (October 2010) that:

  • Future distribution programs install lithium battery-powered alarms with sealed-in batteries that last 10 years. 
  • Alarms come with “hush” buttons that allow residents to silence a nuisance (e.g., burned toast) alarm without removing the batteries or the whole alarm. 
  • Ten-year smoke alarms “chirp” after the battery loses power and offer the added benefit of reminding owners to replace ineffective units at their properties. 
Smoke detection sensors also lose effectiveness after about a decade; fire safety advocacy groups like the National Fire Protection Association have been educating people to replace their smoke alarms every 10 years

New Smoke Detector Laws

Eight states and at least six localities now require homes with battery-powered smoke alarms to install the 10-year sealed-battery units. The states include California, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin (multifamily only), as well as my home state of Maryland. New York City is one of the localities that currently has a similar ordinance, while New York State is working on regulations that will go into effect in 2019. On January 1, 2018, the Maryland law went into full effect, so smoke alarms with replaceable batteries should now be replaced with 10-year sealed devices.

As with many laws, the devil is in the details. For example, Oregon’s law applies to only one type of smoke detection sensor (ionization), while multiple states exempt battery-powered smoke alarms from the 10-year sealed battery requirement if the alarm connects with other alarms in the home wirelessly (e.g., a Nest). Those planning on buying a battery-powered smoke alarm should look into the requirements in their area

I ended up installing a hardwired smoke alarm in my home (more on that later). Even though I didn’t purchase a battery-powered smoke alarm, I’m so glad the CDC/NCHH research on these alarms is being translated into policy that is making the public safer. Other states and municipalities should consider taking up this important legislation.



Jonathan Wilson, MPP, joined NCHH in 1994 and currently serves as Deputy Director, Chief Financial Officer, and Director of Research. Mr. Wilson has authored more than 25 peer-reviewed research manuscripts evaluating assessment tools and interventions for healthy housing hazards. He also served as the NCHH representative to the federal Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention from 2004 to 2010. He came to NCHH with a background in nonprofit housing development and a Master of Public Policy from Duke University.

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 lfudala@nchh.org.


 


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.

Are You Decking the Halls with Asthma and Allergy Triggers?

For many, the sight and smell of the Christmas tree is just the thing to put them in the holiday mood – tiny lights peppering a fir, pine, or spruce like hundreds of stars and ornaments that spark decades of wonderful memories. The crisp scent of your tree somehow makes the house smell fresh and clean. As you carefully decorate your home for the holidays, you’re probably spending considerable time making your home a safe, welcoming place for your family and friends to gather. But, at the risk of sounding like a humbug, we want to share some not-so-merry information about the holiday season. Studies have revealed a rise in hospital visits for asthma and other respiratory issues around Christmas, and your holiday decorations – including that beautiful tree that you've just erected in the corner – could be responsible.  As you plan your holiday gatherings, consider ways that you can reduce asthma and allergy triggers in your home.   

Christmas Trees and Wreaths 


Did you know that live trees could increase the risk of wheezing, persistent cough, and allergic sensitization in infants? A study, performed by staff at the SUNY Upstate Medical University, supported by the Children’s Environmental Health Centers of New York, and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, looked into the connection between epidemic peaks in respiratory illness the weeks before and the week after December 25 in children and adults.
 
The study found that Christmas trees, including their needles and bark, from a range of species, carried about 50 types of mold, two-thirds of which could lead to shortness of breath, watery eyes, sinus congestion, feelings of fatigue, and problems sleeping. Some of the molds identified can lead to long-term lung problems and conditions, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Mold spores occur naturally, but the spores thrive in warm conditions, such as your living room. Plus, as the tree decays, the number of airborne mold spores increases dramatically. 

Artificial trees that have been stored improperly can also be a trigger. While in storage, they can accumulate significant amounts of mold spores, dust, and other irritants. 


Other Holiday Triggers  



Other holiday decorations can also trigger asthma attacks and allergies. Here are some of the most common seasonal indoor allergy triggers to avoid:

  • Candles and fragrances – seasonal scents and the warm glow of candles make them a popular choice during the holidays. The fragrances and soot given off by candles can trigger sensitivity in people with allergies or asthma. Besides creating a health hazard, the soot, small particles from paraffin wax, can damage your computers and other electrical appliances.
  • Wood-burning fireplaces – a cozy fire is welcome on a cold winter day; however, a wood-burning fireplace could also be a source for allergy and asthma triggers

Here are some tips to protect your home and family from allergy and asthma triggers during the holidays: 

  • Hose down your tree and let it dry before you bring it inside, whether it’s a fresh-cut variety or you’re getting your artificial tree out of storage. 
  • Remove a live tree soon after Christmas Day. 
  • Have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned every year by a professional. 
  • Instead of a fireplace screen, opt for a fireplace with an insert or a retrofit
  • Avoid using sprays or scented candles with strong fragrances. 
  • Avoid paraffin candles. They’re a petroleum byproduct and release gaseous pollutants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter into the air.
Don’t mistake us for Ebenezer Scrooge! It's just that we love the holidays and want to ensure that everyone in your family can enjoy them to the fullest. And you can with some minor modifications to your already thorough holiday preparations. We wish you a safe and healthy holiday season from our NCHH family to yours!


More Resources



EPA Burn Wise Program for Wood Burning – Tip Sheets
Environmental Health and Safety - Fire Prevention Guidelines for Tree Safety
University of Illinois Extension – Christmas Tree Selection and Care
Cleveland Clinic – Best Ways to Prevent Air Pollution
NCHH – Ensuring Asthma-Safe Homes 
Center for Excellence in Children’s Environmental Health – Healthy Home, Home Hazards: Mold
Preventative Medicine Reports – Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products.

Why I Support NCHH

As we enter into a season of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share my appreciation for work and the people of the National Center for Healthy Housing.

First, a little background on me: I’m, well, the background. Chances are, we haven’t met. You haven’t seen me at any conferences nor have you heard me speak on any panels. You haven’t read about my research; I haven’t published any. Really, unless you’ve been to our offices, you wouldn’t know I worked here at all. That’s by design. You see, serving others has been at the heart of my career in nonprofit management. As the middle child of two pastors, I grew up watching my parents tirelessly serve others. At an early age, I found myself wondering, “Who takes care of the people who take care of everyone else?” With this ever-present question in mind, I’ve built my career in an attempt to answer it. I decided that I would be that resource. Supporting the work of great leaders and great companies is my way of serving the world.

The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is one of those great companies. NCHH is the preeminent national nonprofit dedicated to securing healthy homes for all. Since 1992, NCHH has served as a highly regarded and credible change agent, successfully integrating healthy housing advocacy, research, and capacity building under one roof to reduce health disparities nationwide. I support the NCHH team and, by extension, the healthy housing movement, in an administrative capacity. 

My role is behind the scenes. I’m not on the Hill advocating to ensure that the FY18 budget contains the necessary resources to address and prevent childhood lead poisoning like our policy team. (I work on employee benefit packages.) The producers of critically acclaimed television and news outlets haven’t lined up to interview me, as they have our chief scientist. I certainly haven’t invented a protocol like the Healthy Home Checkup by Healthy Housing Solutions, Inc. ®, which was designed to identify potential health and safety problems of homes before they can cause injury or health issues. (My greatest invention this year was the employee handbook.) I haven’t spoken to a panel of mayors about code enforcement as done by our deputy director. I don’t travel the country leading the movement, nor do I educate healthy housing practitioners about the importance of home-based asthma care programs alongside our executive director. The entire team here works hard every day to deliver the best tools, data, policies, and best practices to empower healthy housing professionals to do their work. I simply support the people who do these wonderful things. I’d like to think that I take care of them while they take care of everyone else.

We’ve had a busy year. Originally created to help the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, our flood guide, Creating a Healthy Home: A Field Guide for Cleanup of Flooded Homeshas been a valuable resource to those who are working to rebuild their homes and their lives after hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The mini-grants we provided to several communities this year have helped hundreds of parents, teachers, and community leaders increase their understanding of lead poisoning prevention. Because of their education, many of these folks now know how to talk to their government representatives about these important issues.

NCHH was featured on the cover of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice this year. We helped to summarize the health and cost benefits of the New York State Healthy Neighborhoods Program. This partnership and program are helping many people with asthma achieve better health, while also saving money and improving household conditions.

Our Aging Gracefully project is helping 142 low-income elders remain safely in their cherished homes as long as possible. Ms. Reed, a retired educator from Greensboro, NC, wrote us a beautiful note expressing her gratitude. She spoke genuinely about the home upgrades she received through our program having a “profound impact” on her quality of life as an independent senior living in her own home.

NCHH, as a member of the Health Impact Project team, contributed to 10 Policies to Prevent and Respond to Childhood Lead Exposure. The report highlights activities such as removing leaded drinking water service lines and eradicating lead paint hazards from the homes of children born in 2018, would protect more than 661,000 children and yield $6.2 billion in future benefits.

NCHH has had a great 25th year. We believe that through partnerships, community-based research, and advocacy, we can all work together to reduce health disparities and lift up communities through improvements in health, education, and productivity. As a movement, we’re all doing a fantastic job. We do important work and we have the privilege of dedicating our lives to the service of others.

Our funders, partners, friends, and supporters make our work at NCHH possible. During this Thanksgiving season, I’d like to say that I am thankful for YOU. Whether you are leading the movement with us or quietly support the healthy housing movement, from one “behind the scenes” person to another, thank you for your support. It’s clear to me that you support NCHH for the same reasons that I do. First, because you believe in service. Additionally, you and I know that it feels good to give. Most importantly, you and I support NCHH because we believe that everyone should have a safe and healthy place to call home. We believe in this work. We believe that together, we can secure healthy homes for all. 

A great way to support the healthy homes movement is by participating with NCHH in #GivingTuesday. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday is a movement to create an international day of giving at the beginning of the holiday season. Giving to NCHH on #GivingTuesday is the perfect time to remember that you and I don’t give to NCHH, we give through it. Our monetary gifts allow these folks to continue the great work that they’ve been doing for the last 25 years. I hope you’ll continue to join me in supporting this cause and this organization. Donate today.

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