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UTMB-CET: Center Highlights

Promoting Healthy Homes in an EJ Showcase Community

Through the University of Texas Foundation, Inc., Dr. Sharon Croisant received funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for "Promoting Healthy Homes in an EJ Showcase Community". The purpose of this project is to have trained inspectors from CIDA, who will visit an estimated two hundred or more homes, to inspect them for environmental hazards and educate the residents about simple and inexpensive measures they can take themselves to improve the air quality and overall environmental safety of their homes.

community healthy home meetingEnvironmental health hazards must be evaluated in the context of cumulative risk. Overall risks are the sum of risks from a variety of environmental exposures derived from ambient pollution levels in the locality, dietary hazards, environmental hazards within the household, pre-existing health conditions, and other stressors. Indoor air pollutants contribute significantly to cumulative risks faced by members of a community like Port Arthur. While many environmental exposures are largely beyond the control of community residents, exposures to common indoor pollutants can be easily managed by residents if they are aware of them and have received simple instructions for controlling them. Controllable hazards include chemical pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from cooking or heating, particulate matter derived from dusts or that are generated naturally in high humidity conditions (e.g. dust mites and mold spores), organic vapors from cleaning agents, painting materials, adhesives, and motor fuels, household pesticides, and other agents frequently found in home settings. By visually inspecting homes and interviewing residents, trained community inspectors can identify problems and educate residents so that they can mitigate these hazards themselves at little or no cost.

resident examines a healthy homes brochureUsing an approach that has been found to be very successful with previous projects, in partnership with CIDA, we have recruited and trained community workers to conduct healthy homes inspections using an instrument that is based upon one developed by the King County, Washington Department of Health. The inspection is based on an interview with a key resident in each home together with a walk-through visual inspection. As problems are detected the home inspector points them out to the resident and provides instruction on mitigation. Items that are considered and reviewed are home characteristics, occupants, heating and air condition systems, cooking and water heating systems, evaluation for air quality and evaluation for other hazards.

As the interview and inspection proceed the inspector provides general education about hazards associated with the age and condition of the structure including risks of lead exposure in young children, hazards that can result from excessive moisture such as mold and dust mite growth and their roles in asthma exacerbations and other allergic responses, and the overall importance of properly controlling ventilation and humidity in the home.

CIDA is guiding the process of selecting neighborhoods in the community that would benefit most from this educational activity, is recruiting the homes to be inspected and has hired and is supervising the inspectors in the field. Inspectors have been recruited from the local community so that they are familiar with the community, its history, customs, and social issues.

A series of community meetings has been organized and hosted by CIDA in order to inform residents about the inspections before they are conducted. After the inspections have been completed, additional community meetings will be held to educate the community about general problems that are identified, about ways to mitigate common problems and to assist the community in identifying problems that need to be addressed at the city level.

Thus far 175 homes have been inspected.

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