Home Is Where The Health Is

Home Is Where The Health Is

Habitat for Humanity is well known for how successfully they use volunteers  to build homes for families in need. All you have to say is “Habitat” and most  people can conjure up an image of diverse groups working together with lumber,  insulation and bricks and mortar. Habitat is busily building all over the world,  because the need for housing is profound and ever growing. In America alone, 95  million people have housing problems that include insurmountable mortgages,  overcrowding, substandard shelter and homelessness. When families who have been  living in substandard housing are given a chance to buy, and have a hand at  building their own homes, aspects of their lives can take dramatic turns for the  better. The benefits go far beyond just having a solid roof over their heads.  One crucial improvement is the health of their children.

According to Houston Habitat  for Humanity, the number of low-income families that lack safe and  affordable housing is related to the number of children that suffer from viral  infections, anemia, stunted growth and asthma. All of these factors are  attributed to the lack of stable housing. In addition, 10,000  children aged 4 to 9 are hospitalized for asthma attacks each year because  their homes are infested with cockroaches,  a known asthma trigger. For children without stable housing, the effects of  chronic health problems are long-term and far-reaching. Housing  deprivation leads to an average of 25%  greater risk of disability or severe ill health across a person’s  lifespan.

On the other hand, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to  Build a Better America, ”…when adequate housing protects individuals  and families from harmful exposures and provides them with a sense of privacy,  security, stability, and control, it can make important contributions to  health.” Children in stable, healthy home environments are more likely to  stay in school and experience improved test scores in math and reading.

Poor Children Need Healthy Homes

We already know that poor  children are disproportionately affected by environmental pollutants like  those from power plants and refineries. But they are also exposed to indoor  health hazards like lead, mold, mites and other insects and pests, a myriad of  other allergens, radon, volatile organic compounds and asbestos. These  pollutants make them sicker and more susceptible to other illnesses. Of the 26  million Americans who suffer from asthma, 7 million are children. Asthma is the most common chronic diseases among children. And poor children and  children of color suffer asthma at higher rates. Approximately 40% of diagnosed  asthma in children is attributed to residential exposures. The annual economic  cost of asthma, including direct medical costs from hospital stays and indirect  costs such as lost school and work days, amounts  to approximately $56 billion. These are costs that families on the economic  edge cannot afford.

All Families Need Energy-Efficient Homes

Habitat homes are built with stability and energy efficiency in mind. Each  Houston Habitat home receives Energy Star certification, demonstrating a  commitment to energy efficiency and affordability. The families that will buy  the homes take part in their construction. They become homeowners and thus  stakeholders in their community. This is how Habitat not only improves the  health of families, but of entire communities.

Where We Live Matters

Where we live is at the core of our daily lives. Our homes have the most  significant impact on how we survive and how we view our place in the world.  Habitat for Humanity provides the opportunity for families to improve their  economic situations and live in safe homes as sanctuaries against the onslaught  of health and safety threats outdoors. For these families, in a very real sense,  their Habitat homes help them live better and longer.

Habitat for Humanity is doing their part to address pollution, the asthma  epidemic here in Houston, the environment, and preventable childhood illnesses  worldwide. Each of us must do our part too.



Clean Air Alternatives to Aerosol Spray

Clean Air Alternatives to Aerosol Spray

by Cherise Udell

This is probably not a surprise to you if you have ever used an aerosol spray  can, but these little stinkers are often dangerously toxic to you and the  environment. All you have to do is read the warning label to realize you just  may have a time-bomb in your hand. We all know that if allowed to heat-up, that  pressurized aerosol can actually become a real bomb and explode. But did you  also know that the fine vapor mist, along with the inevitable chemical cocktail  of some aerosol products, has been linked to cancer, brain damage and even death  for the user? Furthermore, aerosols are at the root of some big environmental problems  such as air pollution and global warming.

Next to injections, breathing fine vapor mist is the fastest way to absorb a  chemical into your body. For someone having a massive asthma attack, medicinal  delivery through a fine mist is a godsend. For children getting their annual flu  shot, the new flu mist, in lieu of a needle, is also something to be celebrated.  But for the rest of us just trying to get ready for the day, clean our homes or  finish a project, the user-friendly aerosol can often requires a deal with the  devil. Just as asthma medication is quickly inhaled via aerosol spraying, so are  the hundreds of questionable chemicals that come in other types of aerosol  cans.

Fortunately, there are numerous alternatives to that highly flammable, often  highly polluting, potentially cancer-causing aerosol can.


The spray-on sunscreen is mighty tempting; who likes the  greasy feeling of hand-applying suntan lotion? I know I don’t and neither do my  kids. But it is very likely your lungs or your children’s lungs like the fine  particle spray laced with numerous dubious chemicals even less. Furthermore, why  trade the possibility of skin cancer from the sun for the possibility of another  type of cancer somewhere inside your body? Do your body and the air a favor and  return to the hand-applied sunscreens — or find a “stick” alternative such as  California Baby.

Odor Removal

We all enjoy a fresh-smelling home, car and office. Yet diaper pails, pet  odors, and food odors are notoriously difficult to dispel….unless you know about  vinegar.  Vinegar has an extraordinary capacity to wipe-out even the  strongest, most persistent odors. All you need to do is mix water with white vinegar (I like 2/3 vinegar and 1/3 water) in a spray  bottle and mist as you would with an air freshener. You will smell the strong  scent of vinegar for about five minutes, but then it dissipates, taking along  the offensive order with it! I spray trash bins, shoes, pet areas, the kitchen,  my car and laundry room with vinegar on a regular basis and without the guilt  and risk of using toxic aerosols. Another plus to vinegar — it is very  inexpensive, especially if you buy the big jugs at Costco.

If just removing the stinky smells is not enough and you want some lovely  scents to escort you through your day, try pure essential oils. You can apply the scent of your choice in a  number of ways: a) just sprinkle a few drops on your carpet, bed linens or wood  floors; b) mix a few drops of the essential oil in a spray bottle filled with  water and spray; c) use a water-based diffuser or d) use a candle diffuser. Try  lemon, lavender, rose and/or cinnamon for some fresh clean scents. Personally, I  love Do Terra essential oils for their purity and high medicinal grade – and  thus recommend these highly.

Clothing Starch

Some people love their clothes starched to keep them extra  crisp and fresh. If you are one of these well-dressed individuals, try ditching  the aerosol spray and use a mixture of cornstarch and water in a spray bottle  instead. Mix one tablespoon of cornstarch for each pint of water. Test the blend  on a dish towel and add more cornstarch if needed (a 1/2 teaspoon or less at a  time), to get the crispness you desire.

Furniture and Stainless Steel Polish

Try olive oil or any cooking oil as a wood furniture polish. Olive oil also  works well with stainless steel. If you prefer a scented polish, again, just add  a few drops of a pure essential oil such as lavender or lemon. Be sure to use a  little elbow grease to polish the oil to create a nice sheen and remove any oily  residue left behind.

Hair Spray

Farrah Fawcett probably could not have managed her signature hairdo if it  weren’t for aerosol hair spray, but fortunately having two shellacked wings of  hair framing your face is no longer in style. That is not to say that some of us  still don’t rely on a little help with our locks. If you need hairspray, ditch  the aerosol can and choose a pump hair spray instead. Early forms of aerosol  hairspray contained vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen, as well as, CFCs which  were very effective at eating the ozone in our atmosphere, and therefore a big  culprit in global warming. Fortunately, both CFCs and vinyl chloride were banned  in hairspray products in the 1970s. However, according to a PBS website, even  without the vinyl chloride, it is not known whether the ingredients currently  used in hairspray are safe for human use.