Housing conditions can significantly affect public health. Childhood lead poisoning, injuries, respiratory diseases such as asthma, and quality of life issues have been linked to the more than 6 million substandard housing units nationwide. Residents of these units are also at increased risk for fire, electrical injuries, falls, rodent bites, and other illnesses and injury. Other issues of concern include exposure to pesticide residues, indoor toxics, tobacco smoke, and combustion gases. The burning of oil, gas, and kerosene can release a variety of combustion products, including carbon monoxide, a known cause of illness and death.
Most public health efforts take a categoric approach to health and safety hazards in the home, focusing narrowly on one issue, even in the presence of multiple issues. A Healthy Homes approach is holistic and comprehensive and provides housing, safety, and health professionals the training and tools necessary to address the broad range of housing deficiencies and hazards associated with unhealthy and unsafe homes.
Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. However, nearly 1 million children living in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to impair their ability to think, concentrate, and learn. Evidence shows that the most common source of lead exposure for children today is lead paint in older housing and the contaminated dust and soil it generates. New Hampshire has the oldest housing of anywhere in the United States with 62% of its homes built before lead-based paint was banned in 1978.
Lead is highly toxic and affects virtually every system of the body. It can damage a child’s kidneys and central nervous system and cause anemia. At very high levels, lead can cause coma, convulsions, and death. Even low levels of lead are harmful. Low levels are associated with decreased intelligence, behavior problems, reduced physical stature and growth, and impaired hearing. The only way to know for sure if your child has lead poisoning is a simple blood test. Ask your child's doctor about having a blood test done or contact the Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for information about where to have your child tested.
The Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is a resource to help address the risk of lead poisoning and other health, safety and energy issues that stem from the home environment. The Program includes the following components:
- Coordination and oversight of the Statewide Healthy Homes Strategic Action Plan;
- Facilitator of the "One-Touch" Healthy Homes initiative;
- Nurse case management for lead poisoned children;
- Environmental inspections for lead poisoned children;
- Licensing and certification of lead paint professionals;
- Statewide monitoring of all reported child and adult blood lead levels;
- Professional and public education; and
- Lead poisoning policy and rule development and enforcement.
For more information on healthy homes, lead poisoning prevention, and lead professional licensing, contact the Division of Public Health Services, Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (800) 897-LEAD (5323) within New Hampshire or at (603) 271-4507.