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New U.S. Initiative to Make Homes Healthier

Several federal agencies today unveiled Advancing Healthy Housing–A Strategy for Action. White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Nancy Sutley, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., and Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman discussed the new plan during an event at the National Building Museum.

The initiative represents a bold new vision for addressing the nation’s health and economic burdens caused by preventable hazards associated with the home. The Strategy for Action encourages federal agencies to take preemptive actions that will help reduce the number of American homes with health and safety hazards.

People in the United States spend about 70 percent of their time in a home. Currently, millions of U.S. homes have moderate to severe physical housing problems, including dilapidated structure; roofing problems; heating, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies; water leaks and intrusion; pests; damaged paint; and high radon gas levels. These conditions are associated with a wide range of health issues, including unintentional injuries, respiratory illnesses like asthma and radon-induced lung cancer, lead poisoning, result in lost school days for children, as well as lost productivity in the labor force. The health and economic burdens from preventable hazards associated with the home are considerable, and cost billions of dollars.

The Strategy for Action unifies, for the first time, federal action to advance healthy housing, demonstrating the connection between housing conditions and residents’ health. It also promotes strategies and methods intended to reduce in-home health hazards in a cost-effective manner.

“It is clear that unhealthy and unsafe housing has an impact on the health of millions of people in the United States, which is why we must do everything we can to ensure that individuals and families have a healthy place to call home,” said Shaun Donovan, HUD secretary. “Today’s announcement will help the federal government unify action to controlling and preventing major housing-related exposures and hazards.”

“Thanks to unprecedented collaboration across the federal family and among our many partners, we now have a specific plan for action to address radon and other preventable hazards found in homes across the country. This is important progress, especially when you consider that people spend an estimated 70 percent of their time inside a home,” said Lisa P. Jackson, EPA administrator. “At EPA we’re committed to ensuring Americans in all communities have healthy places to live, work and play, and the strategy we announced today is a critical step toward reaching that goal.”

“Healthy homes and communities are essential to our quality of life, our productivity and our economic vitality,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. “Through this plan, Federal agencies have committed to working together to make sure all Americans can count on safe, healthy places to live, grow and thrive.”

Dr. Mary Jean Brown, chief of CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch added, “Healthy homes lead to healthier lives. People can take simple steps to protect themselves from health hazards in the home.”

“Energy efficiency and healthy homes are inextricably linked,” explained U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman. "We cannot, in good conscience, pursue one in the absence of the other. DOE is committed to ensuring that our efforts towards creating an efficient national housing stock also strive to maximize the health and safety of the families we serve.”

The overall vision for the strategy is to reduce the number of American homes with residential health and safety hazards, achieved through five goals:
1. Establish healthy homes recommendations
2. Encourage adoption of healthy homes recommendations
3. Create and support training and workforce development to address health hazards in housing
4. Educate the public about healthy homes
5. Support research that informs and advances healthy housing in a cost-effective manner

For more on the Strategy for Action, visit the interagency Healthy Homes website.
 

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