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Homes and Health

Childhood Lead Poisoning

Between 1999 and 2004, an estimated 240,000 children 1-5 years of age had elevated blood-lead levels, and most of these levels were caused by lead paint-hazards in and around their homes. Lead exposure can cause lasting damage to a child's neurological development and behavior problems. In fact, in high amounts lead can be deadly. Although it is no longer used, lead-based paint poisoned millions of children.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is one of the leading causes of unintentional poisoning deaths in the United States. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced whenever fuel or other organic materials are burned. In 2007, more than 21,000 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fire-related CO exposure. Over 60% of these exposures occurred in the home. CO poisoning can cause shortness of breath, neurobehavioral effects, and even death. Low-level CO exposure may cause irregular heartbeat and damage to the heart muscle. CO poisoning can be prevented but every year more than 450 people in the United States die as a result of accidental, non-fire related exposures to this toxic gas.

The connection between housing and health is well established. People spend half of every day, sometimes more, inside their homes. Clearly, the housing environment is one of the major influences on health and well-being. As early as the mid-19th century, physicians advocated healthy housing to reduce death and illness among the poor.

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