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May 6, 2014
GHHI recognizes and thanks all of our partners and supporters—in cities across the United States—for the excellent work they are doing to raise awareness about asthma and to reduce asthma triggers in the home. May is asthma awareness month and today, May 6, is World Asthma Day, themed “You can control your asthma.”
Nearly 26 million people living in the United States have asthma, a chronic lifelong disease that affects the lungs. Asthma can cause wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma to reduce and prevent asthma attacks. In the United States, approximately half of people with asthma had at least one asthma attack in 2012. More children (55%) than adults (49%) had an attack.
Asthma attacks cause kids to miss school and adults to miss work. These dangerous and sometimes life-threatening episodes reduce the quality of life for people with asthma. The good news is that we can raise awareness about asthma and how it can be controlled.
People with asthma can prevent asthma attacks if they learn how to avoid asthma triggers like tobacco smoke, mold, outdoor air pollution, and colds and flu. Asthma episodes can also be prevented by using inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed daily long-term control medicines correctly.
Studies show that less than half of people with asthma report being taught how to avoid triggers, and the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative is working to change this. We work with low-income families and provide appropriate tools and techniques for reducing indoor asthma triggers. We also provide qualifying families free home repair services targeted at unhealthy home issues triggering asthma—like mold, mildew, moisture, pests and issues of extreme heat and cold.
Our intervention model has helped keep kids out of the hospital and get them back to the classroom, healthy and ready to learn. A recent study of our work found that by addressing asthma triggers in the homes of Baltimore children with chronic asthma, we have been able to reduce asthma related hospitalizations by over 60% and emergency department visits by 25%. And we found another outcome compelling—a 62% increase in participants reporting asthma-related perfect attendance for their child (i.e. zero school absences due to asthma episodes).
We join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) in encouraging people with asthma to learn more about how to control asthma and prevent asthma episodes.
To learn more about asthma control and management, visit the CDC. To learn how to raise awareness about asthma, visit GINA and use the CDC’s Online Asthma Awareness Toolkit. For air quality information, visit EPA AirNow.
April 22, 2014
Celebrate Earth Day by giving your home an energy-efficiency makeover. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the largest sources of energy consumption in a home are space heating (45%) and water heating (18%), followed by space cooling, electronics, lighting and miscellaneous uses (37%).
Every energy-efficiency improvement you make can reduce your energy usage, and in turn your energy bill. If there’s no room in the budget for investing in home improvements, remember that habit changing is free and effective. Which level of our challenge will you take?
Challenge 1—Change your habits
When you leave the room, turn off the lights, fans and unnecessary appliances. Remember, fans cool people, not rooms.
Beware of energy vampires and unplug appliances when not in use.
Only use the dishwasher, clothes washer and clothes dryer for full loads. Hand wash or air dry smaller loads.
Hand dry your dishes instead of using the dishwasher’s hot air cycle.
Challenge 2—Invest a weekend
Replace all your light bulbs with energy-efficient options like CFLs or LEDs.
Install 1.5 gallon-per-minute (GPM) aerators on all your faucets and shower heads.
Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust at night or when you’re away from home.
Caulk and weatherstrip your doors and windows to prevent air leaks.
Challenge 3—Get seriousHire a professional home energy auditor. The auditor will identify energy waste areas (i.e. air leaks, faulty appliances, poor insulation) and offer recommendations on how to improve your usage and lower your energy bill. Check with your energy company for available rebates—many simply require that you use an approved auditor before and after your energy-efficient home improvements.
For more energy saving tips, check out this great resource from DOE.
March 20, 2014
GHHI is delighted to learn of the significant drop in Rhode Island childhood lead poisoning rates. In 2013, 225 fewer children across the state had elevated lead levels than in 2012. Housing improvements made in Providence account for about half of these gains, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.
These numbers show that taking a best-practice approach to delivering comprehensive housing interventions can change lives. GHHI is pleased to have worked with Mayor Angel Taveras and the City of Providence to create a permitting process that ensures housing contractors use lead-safe work practices and to have helped the city design and implement a “Lead Court,” which is prosecuting property owners who fail to comply with efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning. In fact, the City Solicitor's Office has already prosecuted 180 cases. Providence is the first municipality in Rhode Island to implement these changes. Further building on the Providence approach to healthy and lead safe housing, GHHI-Providence recently produced 135 green, healthy and lead-safe homes in the Olneyville and Valley neighborhoods.
These and other measures, along with a very effective public health campaign, continue to advance the mission to end childhood lead poisoning in Rhode Island. Appreciation for this progress goes to many including: Mayor Tavares, the State Health Department, the City Department of Planning & Development, the Office of the City Solicitor, the City Department of Inspections & Standards and our own Mark Kravatz, who has worked with GHHI staff and partners to implement Rhode Island’s statewide effort to protect kids from lead and other unhealthy housing issues. Mark continues to work tirelessly to ensure that Rhode Island’s children are growing up in healthy, safe, energy efficient homes—preparing them from productive school days and productive lives.
March 19, 2014
March 16-22, 2014 is National Poison Prevention Week! As adults, it’s often easy to avoid poisoning with a little common sense. But how safe are children and pets in your home?
In 2012, poison control centers received more than 3.4 million calls—that’s one call every 8 seconds! According to the American Association of Poison Centers, the poisoning of children under 6 years of age accounts for almost 50% of these calls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every day more than 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in emergency rooms and two of those children will die as a result of poisoning.
Most poisoning emergencies are preventable. Read below for prevention tips and download the room-by-room checklist to poison-proof your home.
Post the nationwide poison control center phone number, 1-800-222-1222, on or near every telephone in your home and program it into your cell phone. You can call the poison control center 24/7 if you think a child has been poisoned and they are awake and alert. Call 911 if you suspect poisoning and your child has collapsed or is not breathing.
Read all warnings and follow the directions on the label when giving medicines to children.
Safely dispose of unused, unneeded or expired medications, vitamins and supplements. To dispose of medicines, mix them with coffee grounds or kitty litter and throw them away.
Never leave medications, pesticides and other household chemical products unattended when you are using them.
Never transfer pesticides or household chemical products to non-labeled containers.
Never reuse empty chemical containers, even if you thoroughly washed the container.
Seal products after each use and store out of children’s reach in a locked cabinet.
Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia can result in toxic gases.
If you use mouse or rat poison, make sure the bait stations are tamper-resistant.
Before applying pesticides (inside or outside the home) remove children, pets and toys. Read the label to determine when it is safe to return to the area.
Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector one each level of your home.
Have your home and child tested for lead.
Download this checklist for a list of steps that can help parents identify sources of household product dangers in the home. As you conduct this room-by-room inspection, get down to a child’s level so no potential hazards go unnoticed.
Sources: CDC, EPA
October 21, 2013
Any child who lives in a property built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned for use in homes, may be at risk from lead hazards in their home. The number one reason that we hear from tenant clients when we ask why they have lived with the numerous health and safety issues in their home without complaining to their landlord (rental property owner) is “I do not want to get put out.” In this economy, tenants are increasingly fearful that they will have nowhere to go and no home for themselves and their families if they complain about the chipping paint or leaking ceiling in their home. Often times families live for years in substandard housing because they have not been informed of their rights or that there are other options that will not result in them being homeless. There are several important landlord-tenant laws in Maryland that support tenants in getting lead hazards repaired in their home safely and that will help protect their children from being lead poisoned including:
Rent Escrow - The Rent Escrow statute in Maryland allows a tenant to put their landlord on written notice that there are threats to health and human safety and to place their rent in escrow if the landlord does not respond in a timely manner to repair the defects. Defects such as chipping, peeling paint, leaking roofs, mold and other defects are things that are considered a threat to life, health and safety under the rent escrow law. (Maryland. Code Ann. Real Property 8-211) Something unique to Maryland is its lead specific Rent Escrow law. (Maryland Real Property Law 8-211.1) Maryland has the strongest state law in the nation that gives tenants’ protections and rights specifically and exclusively for lead hazards.
If a rental property is built before 1950, this Rent Escrow law allows a tenant to send notice to their landlord simply based on chipping, peeling or flaking paint in their older rental unit. After sending written notice to their landlord, the landlord has thirty (30) days in which to repair the chipping paint or other defects using a lead certified contractor. A Housing Code Violation Notice, a Health Department Lead Violation, or any other government agency notice to the landlord also counts as written notice for purposes of Rent Escrow. If the landlord does not make the necessary repairs within 30 days, the tenant can go to their local District Court and file a Rent Escrow Complaint. You do not need any attorney to file a Rent Escrow Complaint.
If a rental property is built before 1950, the landlord is required to be registered with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and have a valid lead inspection certificate for the property before the tenant moves in. If the owner does not have a proper lead certificate, the tenant can file a Rent Escrow Complaint at their local District Court and ask that their rent be put into escrow until the property is repaired and passes a lead inspection.
Retaliatory Eviction - What most tenant clients are surprised to know is that from the moment notice is given to the landlord the owner cannot: 1. Increase rent; 2. Lessen essential services such as heat; 3. or, evict the tenant merely because the landlord received notice of the defects in the property. This is considered retaliatory eviction and against the law. (Maryland Code Ann. Real Property 8-208) Should the court find that the landlord is guilty of retaliatory eviction the tenant is entitled to be protected and may be allowed to live an additional six (6) months in the property.
Relocation Assistance Actions - If you live in a pre-1950 rental property in Maryland that has not been inspected and certified as required, tenants may be entitled to up to $2,500 in relocation assistance from the landlord to move to lead certified housing. Don’t stay in a home with lead hazards, call us at 410-534-6447 to find out how you can get repairs made to your home or move to lead safer housing.
Failure to Pay Rent Complaints - Tenants should be aware that landlords who file Failure to Pay Rent Complaints for their pre-1950 built rental properties must be registered and have a lead inspection certificate in order to use the Rent Court process to collect rent. If you live in an older rental property, tenants can ask the Judge in Rent Court (District Court) to dismiss the Failure to Pay Rent Complaint if the owner does not have a valid lead inspection certificate number listed on the Complaint form.
Tenant Responsibilities - Just like the landlord, the tenant has some responsibilities under the law that they must comply with. The tenant is required to regularly pay rent and to send written notice of the problems in their home to the landlord as soon as possible when they happen. A telephone call and/or text is not enough and difficult to prove in Rent Court. Additionally, the tenant must allow the landlord and the necessary workers into the property during reasonable hours (9am-5pm) to do the work. If there is chipping and peeling paint in the older home, the landlord is required to use certain lead certified workers who have been trained to do the lead work safely and perform proper clean up. Tenants can contact the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) at 410-534-6447 or via our website www.ghhi.org if they have any questions or concerns on the process and what their rights are as tenants.
Don’t wait, call us now for help in getting lead hazards repaired in your home! Lead poisoning is entirely preventable!
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to provide general information only. It is not intended to give legal advice. Any tenant or rental property owner needing legal advice should consult an attorney.