Introducing NCHH’s State Healthy Housing Fact Sheets: EPA Region 8
by Sarah Goodwin
Throughout 2018, we’re posting highlights of our state fact sheets by EPA region, one region per month. In August, we’re looking at EPA Region 8, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
When we decided to create 52 state healthy housing fact sheets over a year ago now, we were trying to accomplish two things that seemed almost contradictory. We wanted to be able to highlight the distinct needs and quirks of each state, so that advocates could take a single sheet of paper and explain, with well-sourced and detailed statistics, what the situation was in their homes. And at the same time, we wanted to present 52 resources with a uniform structure and format, illustrating that most healthy housing issues are, indeed, a national problem.
If I may speak with some pride, I think we managed to meet both of those needs very well, and as we’ve presented the fact sheets over the past year, I certainly hope our audience has felt the same. But when I started this blog series in January, I didn’t really expect a clear third dimension to emerge: that is, the regional differences that show up when comparing the fact sheets. It’s not universal, but when you spend a couple hours each month combing through the fact sheets in services of a blog draft, things jump out.
Here’s an example: On our 2017 fact sheets, we tracked five federal programs where funding was provided for fewer than 50 states. The only two states that did not receive funding from any of these five programs between 2015 and 2017 were South Dakota and Wyoming; two of the seven states that lacked four of the five programs were Montana and North Dakota. (The other five states in the latter category were also found in the western or southern regions of the country). I’ll go into more detail about why this matters in the section below.
Other noted facts from this region include:
- Between 43% (Utah) and 58% (North Dakota) of houses in this region were built before 1978 and are likely to contain lead-based paint.
- All six of these states have very low rates of blood lead test reporting:
- In 2016, only 1,116 tests were reported in Utah; 61 children tested with levels above 5 µg/dL.
- The most recent data available for Colorado and North Dakota is from 2014. In Colorado, only 4% of the population under six years of age was tested.
- In South Dakota, only 1,118 children were tested in 2013; 6.1% of those tests were above 5 µg/dL.
- In Wyoming, only 2,184 children were tested in 2012, the most recent available data.
- And Montana, despite having a particular lead risk from the state’s history of mining and smelting, leading to ground water and soil contamination, does not have any available data at all.
- The whole region is at high risk for radon. For example, in Colorado, almost 50% of homes tested for radon have been above the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L, while all of North Dakota’s counties have predicted average indoor radon levels above the action level. When at or above the action level, EPA recommends fixing your home.
- Over 20% of Utah homes lack carbon monoxide detectors. In 2014, there were 421 unintentional carbon monoxide exposures in the state.
- In 2015, unintentional falls were responsible for 1,176 deaths among adults over 65 in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming combined. In Utah, falls cause three deaths among older adults per week.
- Asthma prevalence rates in this region range from between 7% to 9% of children and 8% to 10% of adults. While information on the cost and medical burden of asthma is not as comparable across states, some points of interest include:
- 363 hospital discharges for asthma in South Dakota in 2016, with an average cost of $14,831 each;
- Over 7,500 emergency department visits in Utah in 2014, with a total cost of $28 million;
- More than 3,900 hospitalizations in Colorado in 2014;
- Over 2,000 emergency department visits in Montana in 2013.
- On our 2017 fact sheets, we tracked five federal programs where funding was not provided for all 50 states: CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, National Asthma Control Program, and Environmental Public Health Tracking Program; HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes; and EPA’s Lead Categorical Grants. As I mentioned above, the only two states that did not receive funding from any of these five programs between 2015 and 2017 were South Dakota and Wyoming; Montana and North Dakota lacked significant funding as well. Lack of these programs can set both the state governments and the citizens they serve back in terms of available resources. These programs are ones where NCHH has requested increased funding, and the states or localities that do receive this funding often rely on them to support their own programs. And, at the national level, one way we see the impact of this funding is in the data that becomes available when constructing these very fact sheets. The fact that several of these states are not supported by the CDC lead program is one big reason the lead testing data I reported above is patchy for this region, and there is a world of difference between the health data available for the states with funding from the Environmental Health Tracking Program and those without.
Other NCHH Resources
- Use this list of building code resources to identify building codes in your state and locality.
- A recent case study series on alternative forms of financing for healthy homes services included a look at the Montana Asthma Home Visiting Program.
- More information about the impact of federal funding programs is available here.
One More Thing…
By the way, Region 8 is one of the most underrepresented in the National Safe and Healthy Housing Coalition (of which NCHH is a member), and we’re missing official members from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming entirely. Interested in joining? Learn more about the coalition and sign up here.
NCHH’s state fact sheets will be updated annually with current information. For questions or comments, please email Laura Fudala at firstname.lastname@example.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.