Transport Company

How to Choose a Sustainable Transport Company

Sustainability practices form a basis for choice in many people’s lives these days. We choose to deal with companies that follow at least some sustainable practices in their business, so how can we choose a transport company in the same way? What does sustainability look like for such a company?

You can use a platform to choose a freight company where freight must be sent from A to B in our modern world and there are many different kinds of vehicles used in its transportation, from plane to ship and from van through to huge semi-trailer or BWs. Goods can even travel by car, motor bike or pushbike – think in terms of mail or newspapers for the last few.

The thing is, how can we know which freight companies use sustainable practices in their business? it’s not that easy to tell, but here are a few hints.

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carpet beetle

Signs of Carpet Moth or Beetle Infestation

Any carpet cleaners like professional teams such as Brilliance Carpet Cleaning Perth, will tell you that as bad as fleas in the carpet area, carpet moths are worse because they damage the fibres. Or rather, it is their larvae that do all the damage, munching their way through those tasty, natural fibres until they finally encase themselves in a cocoon and turn into a moth. Then of course, the cycle starts all over again. One carpet moth can lay up to 150 eggs and these will hatch into tiny and very hungry caterpillars within 5 days.

So how can you tell if that moth fluttering around inside is a carpet moth? The adult carpet moth is beige or brown in colour and has a small wingspan of 14-18ml. It is wise to get rid of any moth that is inside – or at least catch it and let it go outside if you are that way inclined. At least it won’t lay eggs that will hatch into little grubs that can ruin your carpet.

Here are some signs of carpet moth infestation: –

  • Carpet fibres that have come loose for no apparent reason. This happens because the larvae ate the knots.
  • You might see little caterpillars crawling around under your carpet.
  • You may notice tiny cocoons that blend in with the wool in your carpet. Often they are a flat, oval shape with pointed ends.
  • Moths flying around the room.
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Recycle When Moving

What To Recycle When You are Moving

Moving can be a stressful time, but if you start to get organised before a company such as Brilliance Removalists Perth turn up you will find it is not nearly as traumatic. One thing that can be done early is sort out what you want to take with you and what you should recycle. This can reduce your possessions so you have less to pack. And having less to load will surely please the removalist.

So how do you decide what to toss? Here are some tips.

  • Clothing – if you haven’t worn it for two years it is unlikely that you want or need it. Sell it online or have a garage sale. Or you can simply donate it to a charity.
  • Toys – kids grow out of toys and don’t want to play with them anymore. Give them to friends, family, neighbours or the op-shop. Sell them online or at a garage sale.
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Carpet Stains

How to Deal With the Four Worst Carpet Stains

If you have carpet in your home like most people, there is sure to come a day when something gets spilled on it.  When this happens, quick cleaning must be undertaken immediately so that the spill doesn’t soak right through the base of the carpet into the floor underneath and so the stain doesn’t set.  If you simply leave it to dry it will be twice as difficult to get out and the stain may never be fully removed. However, professional carpet cleaners like Brilliance Cleaning can usually do a good job of cleaning most carpets.

So what are the four worst stains in a carpet? Most people will agree that they are: –

  • Coffee
  • Blood
  • Grease and
  • Red wine

Here are some tips to deal with these biggies and reduce their effect on your precious floor covering.

  • Never use hot water as this will set most stains, but especially blood.
  • How to get these stains out of the carpet depends a lot on what the carpet is made of. Wool must be treated more gently than nylon. Wool carpets should not be saturated with water or cleaner as they take a longer time to dry and it could result in a patch of mould forming.
  • Blot the stain from the outside in to prevent the stain spreading.
  • Use a white towel that is damp rather than dry as water helps to absorb the stain.
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Importance of Scaffolding

The Importance of Scaffolding for DIY House Renovations

When you are doing your own home renovations there will be many jobs that require you to reach up to high places. Painting the walls and ceilings is just one of them. It is very important to have safe scaffolding for these jobs so that you remain safe while doing them, and so the jobs are much easier to accomplish.

Without scaffolding to support you, it is possible and even likely that you could have an accident or a fall, through overextending your reach on the ladder. In fact, the ladder is not all that safe whether it is inside or out. Inside, it can slip on the floor and outside, the ground can sink under one leg and cause the ladder to tip, throwing you off balance.

If you are a handyman, you may be able to make your own scaffolding, especially if you can weld. You can prepare it carefully and ensure it is attached to the outer walls in a way that will prevent you from falling. It gives you a wide and stable surface you can stand on to operate power tools or wield a paintbrush from.

In addition, you can create a long piece of scaffold that enables you to paint a whole wall without getting down, so the job will be done much more quickly and you won’t get as tired. Every building job requires support of some kind, even if it is minimal; for instance, a one-storey home on flat ground. You still need to reach up to those walls and ceilings to paint or do the renovation you had planned.

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Eco Friendly Moving

How to Make Your Home Removal Eco Friendly

Taking care to make your home removal eco friendly is quite easy and has the added advantage of saving on costs. According to Brilliance Removalists Brisbane, not all removalists are into saving the earth’s resources, but that doesn’t matter; you can do your part and feel satisfied that every small bit helps.

Here’s how: –

  • Save on packaging materials of both paper and plastics by using your soft towels, hand towels, tea towels, jumpers and other smaller clothing items to wrap breakables in and to wedge between items in the boxes.
  • Use blankets, doonas and larger towels on the bottom of the boxes and to wrap around mirrors and wall art, or that glass table top.
  • Crumple up old newspapers and magazines to form packaging, thus using them twice before they are thrown away.
  • Choose a removalist that is close to you or get back freight from one going back to your destination. This saves on the overall use of fuel, even though it may not save your costs. However, back freighting can often be cheaper.
  • Don’t throw away those things you don’t want to take, but recycle them by having a yard sale, or donate them to a charity or school fete. Even giving them away to the neighbour is recycling.
  • Pack an esky with food from the refrigerator rather than throwing it out.
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Timber Flooring

Tiber Flooring – Making the Change

At what stage of living in a house do you make a conscious decision about changing the look of the floors? Is it when you have ordered yet another carpet clean? Is it when you have had pets inside the house and the carpets just can’t handle it anymore, not the poo, animal vomit nor the ingrained pet hair? When do you decide that the house really needs freshening up, a complete change over, and that timber flooring is the best way to go?

Cool Living

If you live in the hottest and driest state in Australia, the West, then doing all you can to keep cool without using too much energy, read air conditioning, becomes of paramount importance. Wooden flooring does not retain the heat as much as a carpet. Clean lines and that feeling of ‘open’ is a result of installing wooden flooring and doing away with carpets.

Cold Feet

If you’re still a bit of a softie when it comes to getting out of the bed on a winter’s morning, and think even wooden flooring is too cold for your tootsies, then for heaven’s sake, buy a rug or small mat on which to put your feet when you swing them out from under the covers. Have your slippers handy. If you look at some photos in Better Homes and Gardens you will see that some beautifully designed rugs look positively great on wooden flooring.

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Home Removals Affordable

Tips to Make Your Removals More Affordable

Moving house costs money, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many ways in which you can save and one is to book some good removalists such as Brilliance Removalists Melbourne early so you get the right size truck and have time to compare prices. That’s not to say you should choose the cheapest offer. Sometimes being cheap means they don’t have insurance or their trucks are not well-maintained.Rail Removalist

Here are some more tips to make your moving day more affordable.

  • Pack your own food for the trip. Buy food enroute can be very expensive. If you have your own sandwiches and snacks, you can stop at any park and let the kids run around; you won’t be limited to finding a fast food place.
  • Source free boxes from stores rather than purchasing them.
  • Use clothing and linen for packaging instead of bubble wrap.
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Rodents

Exposure to rodents can trigger asthma attacks. Studies have shown a linkage between rodent allergy and asthma symptoms.Integrated pest management (IPM) approaches offer effective means of eliminating rodents from a home. IPM methods focus on preventing infestations, trapping rodents, and limited use of lower-toxicity pesticides. However, even after a rodent population is controlled, rodent hair, urine, and fecal matter may remain, which can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Designing, maintaining, and renovating buildings to minimize rodents is an effective prevention-based approach.

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Radon

Radon is one of several carcinogenic health hazards that can be found in the home environment. Testing is the only way to know if a home has a high concentration of radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend that the all residences below the third floor of a building be tested for radon. In apartment buildings, it is most important to test units on the basement level where radon from the ground is likely to be highest, but the first and second floors should also be tested.Anyone can conduct a radon test. There are both short-term and long-term radon tests. EPA recommends initial measurements for radon be taken with short-term tests placed in the lowest lived-in level of the residence. Radon testing kits are available at a discounted price from the National Safety Council’s Radon Hotline (1-800-767-7236) and at various retail locations such as hardware stores. Almost all states recommend that the homeowner or tenant conduct the test himself or herself or hire a contractor who is certified by the National Environmental Health Association or the National Radon Safety Board. A list of certified testers can be obtained by contacting the radon office in the relevant state, the National Environmental Health Association’s Radon Proficiency Program, or the National Radon Safety Board.

Once a radon test has been obtained, the enclosed directions are usually easy to follow and the procedure is simple and straightforward. Typically, the process will consist of setting out a small canister or packet containing activated carbon in the lowest occupied portion of the home and then, two days later, collecting the container, placing it in a foil bag, and mailing it to a lab. The lab should be able to report the results within one week. More detailed guidelines on radon testing are available at www.cehrc.org.

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Mold

Mold is a serious health hazard in the home environment, as it produces allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances. Further, mold can trigger respiratory problems such as asthma in vulnerable and allergic populations. Therefore, preventing and eliminating mold problems is a crucial part of ensuing quality housing conditions.

Controlling mold problems in the home environment is largely dependent on controlling the level of moisture in the home, because mold cannot grow without moisture. Further, excessive moisture in the home is cause for concern as it can also cause or contribute to structural home damage and other housing hazards to human health such as cockroachesdust mites, and peeling lead paint.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent and control excessive moisture, and therefore mold growth, in the home environment—both practical measures for residents as well as precautionary measures during construction or renovation. Please visit the “How to Control Moisture” section of this website for additional information such as practical tips, telltale signs, and likely sources of moisture both inside and outside the home.

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Asthma, Allergies, and Respiratory Illness

Housing factors can play a significant role in respiratory health and greatly exacerbate or increase susceptibility to asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illnesses. For example, numerous home pollutants—dust mites, pet dander, cockroach debrismold, tobacco smoke, and paint fumes—are known to aggravate asthma. Controlling exposure to these and other triggers in the environment benefits overall respiratory health.Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways of the lungs become inflamed or narrowed, resulting in disruptions to normal breathing patterns, often called “attacks” or “episodes.” The level of severity of asthma suffered by each individual, and further, the severity of each attack, varies greatly. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, a feeling of tightness in the chest, and coughing. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 8.7 percent of all children (6.3 million) had asthma in 2001. The American Lung Association (ALA) states that asthma accounts for an estimated 3 million lost workdays for adults and 10.1 million lost school days in children annually, making it the leading cause of chronic illness among children. Additionally, ALA ranks asthma among the top ten conditions causing limitation of activity, and the disease costs the United States $16 billion annually.

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Cockroaches

Cockroaches in the home environment are a health hazard not only because of the risks posed by cockroach antigens to asthma sufferers, but also because they can carry disease-causing germs and because some of the methods traditionally used to eliminate them cause additional health hazards.Any home can have cockroaches. However, there are steps you can take to prevent cockroaches from becoming a problem in your home; identify the extent of and solutions to any potential cockroach problem; and reduce or eliminate cockroach problems.

Prevention

General maintenance and cleaning are important because they remove the food, water, and shelter on which cockroaches depend. There are many steps tenants, landlords, and homeowners can take individually and jointly to prevent cockroach infestation of the home environment.

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A Healthy Home Environment

A healthy home is well ventilatedfree of pests, toxics, and dangerous gasesdrycleancomfortable; and affordable. Good construction and maintenance practices can achieve these conditions, even in an older home.

7 Attributes of a Healthy Home

Dry homes minimize moisture and molds. Moisture and molds can trigger asthma attacks and other allergic reactions. Water and moisture also attract cockroachesrodents, and help dust mites to thrive, all of which can also increase the risk of asthma attacks.

Clean homes have minimal dust and clutter. Researchers and medical experts have proven that dust sensitizes individuals and can trigger asthma attacks. Dust generally comes from two sources:

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How to Control Moisture

The level of moisture in the home is crucial to achieving a healthy home environment. Too little moisture in the home can cause dryness of the nose and respiratory systems, while too much moisture in the home contributes to numerous health impacts, health hazards, and structural home damage. Asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illness are the main health impacts to children and other residents of homes with excessive moisture. Excessive moisture also causes or contributes to other hazards to human health such as moldcockroachesdust mites, and peeling lead paint.

Several common signs that conditions of excessive moisture exist in the home environment include:

  • Rusting metal
  • Condensation on piping and/or windows
  • Rotting wood
  • Mold growth
  • Peeling paint, wallpaper, or other blistering materials
  • Deterioration of other structural items
  • Visible water leaks and/or stains
  • Discoloration of various surfaces
  • Musty odors
  • Standing water
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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a potentially serious hazard that must be addressed to ensure healthy housing. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal, and low levels of carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, and make it difficult to think clearly.Thankfully, there are ways tenants, landlords, and homeowners can reduce the likelihood of hazardous carbon monoxide exposures.

  • Properly maintain, ventilate, and check regularly all fuel-fired heating systems, water heaters, appliances, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves, and space heaters.
  • Always ensure proper ventilation in any room where a fuel-burning appliance of any sort is in use.
  • Do not use any gas appliances (i.e. range, stove) for home heating purposes.
  • Do not burn any type of fuel in the home except firewood in an appropriately maintained and ventilated fireplace.
  • Leave garage doors open while the car is running and limit the amount of time a running car is in the garage. (It is also important to note that carbon monoxide can build up inside the car itself while operating if there are leaks in the exhaust system.)
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Why Children are at Higher Risk

When it comes to harmful environmental exposures, children cannot be considered “little adults.” Their bodies take in proportionately greater amounts of environmental toxins than adults, their rapid development makes them more vulnerable to environmental interference, and their normal behavior patterns place them at greater risk to some toxins.

Children can be exposed to environmental toxins even before birth if the mother is exposed during pregnancy to toxins that can cross the placenta, such as carbon monoxide or lead. Children’s organs, including the brain, lungs, and reproductive systems, begin developing during the fetal stage and continue to develop through adolescence. Organ growth occurs in spurts, and it is during key growth periods that organ systems are most vulnerable to permanent damage. The Environmental Protection Agency recently acknowledged the enhanced risk to children from environmental exposures when it released draft supplemental guidelines for assessing cancer risk from early-life exposure to carcinogens.

Children are exposed to greater amounts of environmental toxins

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Alliance Alert

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Understanding New National Data on Lead Poisoning

In the May 27, 2005, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new national data on lead poisoning (MMWR 54(20); 513-16) (available online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4950a3.htm). This report reports various blood lead statistics for 1999 through 2002, the first significant update since the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) data report from 1991 through 1994. These new data document that further gains have been achieved in protecting children from lead poisoning—and that disparities still exist in lead poisoning rates across races and income levels.

New National Data

The report examines new NHANES data collected in 1999-2002. NHANES, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCHS/CDC), is designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States through interviews and direct physical examinations.

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Arsenic-Treated Wood

Arsenic-treated wood is the result of a chemical process in which wood is treated with a pesticide/preservative called chromated copper arsenate (CCA) to prevent rotting in lumber designed for outdoor use. CCA contains arsenic, chromium, and copper and was widely used for residential purposes in the United States from the 1970s until EPA phased it out in 2003.

CCA-treated wood can be hazardous to human health because arsenic is classified as a known carcinogen. Exposure to arsenic can cause cancer of the lung, bladder, skin, kidney, prostate, and nasal passage. Data released in November 2003 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that 90 percent of children repeatedly exposed to arsenic-treated wood face a greater than one-in-one million risk of cancer. (One-in-one million is the EPA’s historic threshold of concern about the carcinogenic effects of toxic chemicals.) Arsenic exposure can also lead to nerve damage, dizziness, and numbness. Arsenic has been linked to immune diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and changes in hormone function. Lung and bladder cancer are the two health effects most often related to exposure to CCA-treated wood. For information on other cancer risks in the home environment, please see Cancer Risks.

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Lead Poisoning

Exposure to lead in housing poses a significant health risk to young children. Lead is a heavy metal used in many materials and products. When absorbed into the body, it is highly toxic to many organs and systems and seriously hinders the body’s neurological development. Lead is most harmful to children under age six because it is easily absorbed into their growing bodies and interferes with the developing brain and other organs and systems. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are also at increased risk, because lead ingested by the mother can cross the placenta and affect the unborn fetus.

Lead poisoning causes irreversible health effects and there is no cure for lead poisoning. At very low levels of exposure in children, lead 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. At low levels, lead poisoning may not present identifiable symptoms, and a blood test is the only way to know if a child is poisoned. At very high levels of exposure, which are now very rare in the U.S., lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, coma, convulsions, and even death.

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Lead

The major remaining cause of lead poisoning is lead-based paint in housing, especially housing built before 1950, when lead paint was commonly used. Most children with elevated lead levels are poisoned in their own homes by peeling lead-based paint and the lead dust it generates. The mere presence of lead-based paint in a home is not a hazard, as about 40 percent of all U.S. housing contains some leaded paint, and the vast majority of children live safely in these homes and apartments.

Housing age is an important predictor of risk, because the lead content of paint varied substantially over the past century. During the first half of the twentieth century, the lead content of paint was marketed as a measure of its quality—the more lead the better. Prior to about 1940, leaded paints typically contained high amounts of lead, ranging from 10 percent to as much as 50 percent. Lead was added to make paint durable, so lead paint was frequently used in high-traffic and high-moisture areas, including kitchens and bathrooms, exterior siding and trim, window and door trim, stairs, porches, etc. In the early 1950s, the paint industry began reducing lead content, although many paints still contained harmful amounts of lead. Federal regulations limited lead content in 1972 and effectively banned lead in residential paints in 1978.

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The Foundations of Better Lead Screening for Children in Medicaid: Data Systems and Collaboration

The Foundations of Better Lead Screening for Children in Medicaid: Data Systems and Collaboration was developed with the support of The Commonwealth Fund and showcases strategies from five states where intense effort has gone into improving lead screening among the high-risk population of children who are Medicaid beneficiaries. The report’s practical how-to information is of immediate importance to administrators and staff of state Medicaid agencies and state and local health departments, as well as to advocates and policy makers. Among the various topics covered are: combining lead screening data with Medicaid data; state policies that support screening and follow-up care; and using maps to simplify complex information on screening.

Young Medicaid beneficiaries comprise 83% of children in the US with lead levels high enough to require professional follow-up care. Even so, screening among these children remains astonishingly low. In fact, of 42 states reporting Medicaid screening rates for 1999, 25 reported screening fewer than 10% of enrolled children. These rates are even more startling given that a federal requirement for lead screening has been in for nearly a decade.

The Foundations of Better Lead Screening for Children in Medicaid: Data Systems and Collaboration describes promising strategies to improve lead screening for this high-risk group. Free copies can be obtained from the links below or by contacting the Alliance at [email protected] or 202-543-1147.

This report can be downloaded entirely in three PDF files:

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

You cannot see, smell, or taste carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas. When carbon monoxide (CO) enters the bloodstream, it reduces the amount of oxygen received by the body’s organs and tissues. Unborn babies, children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems or heart disease are especially sensitive to carbon monoxide. Even at low levels, carbon monoxide causes serious health problems, and the longer the exposure, the more damage that occurs.
Low levels of carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, and make it difficult to think clearly. Often a family may not realize that their illnesses are related to chronic exposure to carbon monoxide in the home.

At higher levels of exposure, carbon monoxide is related to visual impairment, reduced work capacity, poor learning ability, and difficulty in performing complex tasks. At very high levels, carbon monoxide can also kill. Each year, more than 200 Americans accidentally die from carbon monoxide poisoning in the home, unrelated to fires and engine exhaust (other sources of carbon monoxide poisoning). Seventy-six percent of these deaths are from carbon monoxide released from heating systems. Another eight percent are from gas water heaters. Many victims of carbon monoxide poisoning die in their sleep. An additional 10,200 people visit the emergency room due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from consumer products.

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About Building Blocks

The Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is fulfilling its commitment to the 2010 goal through its grant program requiring that jurisdictions develop and implement a strategic plan for elimination that includes primary prevention, partnering, and program evaluation.  Through this Building Blocks publication, the Branch now offers grantees and others access to promising approaches, including protective public health policies to reduce lead hazards and other promising strategies.

State and local childhood lead poisoning prevention programs (CLPPPs) universally acknowledge the importance of primary prevention and are beginning to address it in their strategic plans and funding applications.  However, many programs’ primary prevention efforts are confined to parent education about hygiene, nutrition, and housekeeping, despite research that makes clear the limitations of these interventions for families whose homes pose significant hazards.  Inability to institute durable primary prevention is caused in part by the pressure to focus resources and attention on secondary prevention: identifying and managing individual cases of elevated childhood BLL.  Indeed, in communities where follow-up on actual poisonings is limited to educating family members about lead hazards and behavioral change (because public resources are not available to control identified lead hazards and halt further exposure), meaningful primary prevention can seem like an extremely remote target. Programs facing these circumstances need ideas for sharing responsibility within the jurisdiction for stopping repeat offenders, expanding access to lead-safe housing, and ultimately arresting the cycle of inferior housing continually producing new poisonings.

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Rodents

Exposure to rodents (mice and rats) has been linked to increased asthma symptoms among laboratory workers who handle rodents and are sensitized to them. Other studies have established links between rodent allergies and asthmatic symptoms in lab workers. Research published in 2004 found similar linkages in residential settings. Rodent allergens are likely from rodent urine, saliva, or skin.

It is clear that many inner-city residents are exposed to and allergic to rodents. A major study on asthma among inner-city children found that nearly 20 percent of asthmatic children had been sensitized to rats and 15 percent were sensitized to mice. This is important to note, as research has found mouse allergen in 82 percent of US homes.

Rodents can also expose humans to diseases such as hantavirus. Exposure to such disease vectors is rare but can cause severe health problems.

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Pesticides

Pesticides are substances designed to kill, repel, or mitigate pests. They include a number of chemical and biological agents commonly used in and around the home to control a broad range of pests: insecticides (for insects, including cockroaches, ants, and termites), rodenticides (for mice and rats), fungicides (for mold and fungi), herbicides (for plants), and antimicrobials (for bacteria and viruses).

Use and Exposure

Approximately 4.4 billion pesticide applications are made each year to American homes, gardens, and yards. According to surveys by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than three-quarters of U.S. households use pesticides, with 66 percent treating major living areas in the home one or more times per year. Cockroaches and ants are the most common targets. More than one-third of households used insecticides in the absence of a major insect problem.

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Cancer Risks

Exposure to several substances found in the home can increase the risk of cancer, which is the second leading cause of death among adults and children in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, environmental factors including tobacco, chemicals, infectious diseases, and radiation are responsible for three-quarters of all cancer deaths in the U.S. While many adult cancers can be traced to these environmental factors, the causes of most childhood cancers are unknown. Like many environmentally related diseases, cancer takes a greater toll on African-Americans, who are more likely to develop and die from cancer than persons from other racial and ethnic groups.

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity play a greater role in determining cancer risk than exposure to trace levels of pollutants in food, air, and drinking water. However, the degree of risk from chemical exposure depends on the concentration and duration of exposure. Individuals exposed to high concentrations of cancer-causing substances bear a significantly higher risk of developing cancer. At the same time, widespread exposure to low concentrations of carcinogens can increase the risk of cancer across the population as a whole. For environmentally related cancers, ten or more years typically pass between exposure to cancer-causing substances and detectable cancer.

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Mold

Molds are simple, microscopic organisms that can grow virtually anywhere, both in homes and outdoors. Along with mushrooms, yeasts, and mildew, molds are classified as fungi. Molds typically consist of a network of threadlike filaments that infiltrate the surface on which the mold is growing. Molds reproduce by releasing spores, which are lightweight and small enough to travel through the air. Spores can resist dry, adverse environmental conditions, allowing them to outlive the mold that produced them.Molds play an important ecological role in breaking down dead organic matter and returning nutrients to the environment. They require moisture and food to grow, and they typically thrive in warm, moist environments. Moisture is the key factor determining mold growth in the home, influencing both the types of mold present and the extent of mold colonization. A variety of materials found in the home, including insulation, wallpaper, glues used to affix carpet, backing paper on drywall, dust, and dirt, can serve as a food source for mold. Mold colonies can go dormant under adverse conditions and revive when favorable conditions return.

Mold growth often appears as green, gray, black, brown, or other discoloration. Eventually, mold growth results in the breakdown of the substrate. More than 1,000 types of molds have been found in US homes.

Exposure and Health Impacts

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Disparities in Risk

Introduction

Although the health of most Americans has improved significantly over time, not all racial and ethnic groups have benefited equally. African-Americans and Hispanics, for example, are more likely than whites to suffer from poor health and to die prematurely. Minority and low-income families are more likely to live in substandard housing and polluted communities, increasing their risk of childhood lead poisoning, asthma, cancer, and other environmentally related diseases. In addition to being disproportionately affected by disease, minorities often lack adequate insurance and access to health care due to financial and cultural barriers.

To a large extent, disparities in health and access to care among minorities reflect disparities in socioeconomic status. In fact, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, the connection between socioeconomic status and health disparities is so strong that income and education levels often serve as proxies for health status. The fact that minority populations on average are poorer than whites underlies many health disparities.

Insurance Coverage and Access to Health Care

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Health Hazards

Many homes fall short of the basic requirements of a healthy home and contain one or more hazards that adversely affect human health. Among the health hazards we may encounter in our homes are those that cause and contribute to asthma (such as dust allergens, mold, and pests), toxic materials (such as lead, asbestos, and chemical pesticides), and poisonous gases (such as carbon monoxide and radon).

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Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that belong to the same class (Arachnida) as spiders and ticks (they have eight legs, not six like insects). They feed primarily on dead skin cells regularly shed by humans and animals. Dust mites thrive in places where their primary food source is most likely to be found: on mattresses, pillows, bedcovers, carpets, upholstered furniture, stuffed toys, clothes, or other fabric items in the home.Unlike insects such as cockroaches, mites are not capable of ingesting water; in order to obtain water, they must absorb it from the air. For this reason, they thrive in humid environments, ranging from 55% to 75% relative humidity. Ideal temperatures for dust mites are between 68º and 77º F. The growth of dust mites can vary on a seasonal basis, or from room to room within a house, depending largely on variations in relative humidity, availability of food sources, and temperature. Mites take about one month to develop from an egg into an adult and have an adult life span of about two to four months. A single adult female may lay up to 100 eggs.

Mite waste products contain an allergen (a substance that causes an allergic immune reaction) that, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, adversely affects about 20 million Americans. Sensitive individuals become exposed to this allergen when they inhale household dust, which contains dust mites and their waste products. Exposure to dust mites can trigger an attack in an asthmatic who is sensitive to the dust mite allergen. (Other asthmatics may not be affected by dust mites.) For persons allergic to dust mite allergen, exposure can cause allergic rhinitis (hay fever), which is characterized by nasal congestion, itching, and sneezing. In addition, exposure to dust mites may cause children who are predisposed to develop asthma to do so. (This predisposition is not fully understood, but appears to depend upon a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.) For more information on asthma and allergies, see Asthma, Allergies, and Respiratory Illnesses.

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Essential Maintenance Practices

The concept of “essential maintenance practices” (EMPs) was developed to deal with lead-based paint in older housing in recognition that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While some homes need dedicated “lead abatement projects” by certified contractors, in most cases, hazards can be avoided in the first place through good maintenance and common sense safeguards. Some EMPs are specific to lead safety, such as avoiding paint removal practices that generate and spread dangerous lead dust. Others address conditions that can cause multiple problems. For example, water leaks, water damage, and excessive moisture can encourage the growth of mold, mildew, and pests, which can cause asthma and other health problems, in addition to causing paint to deteriorate. Periodic visual inspections can identify clues to and causes of water leaks and moisture problems so that low-cost repairs “nip problems in the bud.” The concept of “enlightened maintenance practices” is at the foundation of healthy homes. The EPA/HUD five-hour training course in lead-safe work practices (LSWP) offers a model for conveying practical information to existing trades and can benefit all those whose work encounters painted surfaces in older housing.

Essential Maintenance Practices to Reduce Lead Hazards

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Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality

Proper ventilation helps improve indoor air quality. Ventilation can control indoor humidity and airborne contaminants, both of which either contribute to or act as health hazards. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and several states (Minnesota, Washington, and Vermont) have ventilation standards designed to ensure acceptable indoor air quality.

High indoor humidity can spur mold growth. High humidity may result from poor construction/rehabilitation, site design that does not properly manage water, and/or inadequate air exchange. A reasonable target for relative humidity is 30-60 percent. A low cost hygrometer, available at hardware stores, can be used to measure relative humidity. In cool climates, inadequate ventilation in the winter can contribute to excessive moisture and humidity because normal activities create moisture (cooking, bathing, breathing), and there is insufficient natural ventilation (opening windows) or mechanical ventilation (fans, exhaust systems) to remove the moisture. In warmer climates, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can pull warmer, humid air inside. In this case, the ventilation system may help create indoor humidity problems unless the system also dehumidifies the air.

Common sources of airborne contaminants include:

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Cockroaches

Cockroaches in homes are a health hazard to many children and families because of the risks cockroach antigens pose to asthma sufferers. Traditionally, cockroaches were controlled because they are offensive, leave behind an awful smell, and cause gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. However, research shows that cockroach debris (old shells, saliva, body parts, and droppings) triggers asthma attacks in people who are sensitized to cockroach antigen (proteins found in the debris). In homes where several allergens are present, including dust mites, mold, furry pets, tobacco smoke, and certain chemicals, children may experience severe and frequent asthma attacks from high airborne concentrations of these allergens.

Any home with food or moisture can have cockroaches. Kitchens and bathrooms typically have the highest number of cockroaches due to the presence of food products and moisture from plumbing fixtures. Apartment buildings often have the worst infestations. The goal is to keep cockroaches out of the home and to eliminate existing pests. Reaching this goal is not always easy, especially in multi-unit housing that is already infested. For most apartment buildings, the landlord must take a building-wide approach to controlling these pests. Moreover, a coordinated effort by the landlord and all tenants is required to eliminate cockroaches.

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Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas formed when carbon in fuels does not burn completely. Hundreds of Americans die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by improperly used or malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances. Fetuses, young children, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a “combustion pollutant”—a gas (or particle) that comes from burning carbon-based materials. Combustion pollutants are most often released into the home by vented or unvented appliances and vehicles running in an attached garage. Carbon monoxide is produced when there is a lack of oxygen or enough heat to burn fuels completely. The smoldering burn of incense or cigarettes also produces carbon monoxide.

Indoor Sources of Carbon Monoxide

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Asbestos

Asbestos is the general name used to describe several types of fibrous minerals. These minerals occur naturally and have been mined since the late 1800s for use in modern commercial industries. As asbestos fibers are strong, heat resistant, chemical resistant, and useful in providing heat insulation, their most common uses include addition to building products, insulation materials, and products intended for use in high friction areas (e.g. vehicle brake parts). Although there are six types of asbestos, the most common type found in buildings is chrysotile, also known as white asbestos. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that approximately 90-95 percent of all asbestos contained in buildings throughout the United States is chrysotile.Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and inhalation of asbestos fibers is known to cause respiratory problems and lung diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Asbestosis is a lung disease in which inhaled fibers become stuck in the lung tissue, eventually causing scarring. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the membranes lining the chest and lung cavity and/or the abdominal cavity. Lung cancer is cancer of the lung tissue itself. A combination of smoking and asbestos exposure is known to greatly increase an individual’s risk of lung cancer. All three of these diseases experience delayed development and the diseases may not manifest for 10-40 years after the initial asbestos exposure. Further, there is some indication that exposure to asbestos through inhalation and possibly ingestion may also be related to other cancers of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. For information on other cancer risks in the home environment, please see Cancer Risks.

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