Actions that protect and support healthy babies and young children can benefit those children their whole lives. Sadly, the flip side is also true: Unhealthy conditions for babies and young children also can adversely affect them throughout their lives.
The home environment plays a big role in a child’s health. For example, exposure to mold can lead to asthma and other respiratory problems. Household products (such as some cleaning products or pesticides) can contain chemicals that cause immediate harm to an exposed child or disrupt development. Exposure as a baby or young child to even a small amount of lead, which may be present in lead-based paint in older homes, can have lifelong impact on learning, reduce IQ, and cause behavior or hearing problems, slowed growth, and anemia.
How do we assure healthy living conditions for our children? Policies and regulations are one way.
For example, beginning in 1978, lead was no longer added to paint; it was phased out of use in gasoline beginning in the mid-1970s, and was banned altogether from gas after 1995. Policies such as these have reduced our exposure to lead and have helped create healthier communities.
But we can’t rely on policies alone to protect our health. We need to take voluntary, preventive measures to promote healthier families and communities.
As a strategy to ensure healthier living conditions for all members of our community, Thurston Thrives partners are working to increase the number of well-maintained and weatherized rental homes, which will help reduce residents’ mold exposure, prevent other indoor environment problems and cut energy costs. A component of this is a rental housing rating system that measures health and energy efficiency criteria. The system will provide people looking for rental housing with information about the quality of the units available to them, and create an incentive for landlords to improve their properties.
Fixing up the current housing stock will make more housing available to meet the needs of a growing population, including those with limited incomes. Other strategies to provide affordable, adequate and safe housing are highlighted in the Thurston Thrives housing strategy map at thurstonthrives.org.
What can you do in your home to protect yourself and loved ones from home environment hazards, including asthma triggers and toxic products?
• Start by cleaning your home regularly and keeping it well-maintained. Add regular damp dusting to your cleaning routine (lead is frequently found in dust, especially in homes built before 1978), prioritizing areas where painted surfaces are likely to rub and produce dust (around doors, windows or drawers). Keep painted surfaces in good repair.
• Take your shoes off at the doorway to avoid tracking lead and other hazardous materials found on roadways and soil into the home.
• Store products with warning labels that say DANGER, POISON, WARNING or CAUTION safely out of reach of children. Dispose of these products at HazoHouse.
• Wash hands, pacifiers, and toys often, particularly if you have a baby or toddler.
See our website for more information on creating healthy homes and other practical things you can do to protect kids from household hazards.
Stable and healthful housing is important to the health of each person in our community. This includes taking individual steps to improve our own living spaces. We also need to look at policies and systems that affect the whole of housing in the community for its affordability and quality, so that residents, and their children, live in healthy conditions, whether they rent or own their homes.