Health Hazards, Prevention, and Solutions
Many homes fall short of the basic requirements of a healthy home and contain one or more of hazards that adversely affect human health.
Scientific research has shown that these housing-related hazards pose a broad spectrum of risks, including the following:
- Mold and pests — such as cockroaches, rodents, and dust mites — can cause and contribute to asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illnesses. Since housing conditions can play a significant role in respiratory health, these hazards can greatly increase and intensify susceptibility to respiratory illnesses.
- Toxic materials such as lead, asbestos, and chemical pesticides can harm human health in a variety of ways. For instance, lead poisoning in children causes reduced IQ and attention span, hyperactivity, impaired growth, reading and learning disabilities, hearing loss, insomnia, and a range of other health, intellectual, and behavioral problems.
- Poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide and radon also pose threats to health. Carbon monoxide poisoning results in more than 200 accidental deaths annually and, at much lower levels, causes flu-like symptoms, which often go undiagnosed.
- Radon can increase the risk of cancer, which is the second leading cause of death among adults and children in the U.S.
Refer to the topics below for more detailed information concerning some of the major housing-related health hazards, conditions that may result from exposure to them, and ways to avoid these hazards.
The ideal way to maintain healthy homes and properties is to practice primary prevention (addressing these hazards before they become dangerous problems) using a holistic approach (tackling many hazards at once). With this in mind, NCHH has included two pages in this section — Moisture and Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality — to discuss techniques that can help minimize threats from multiple hazards.