Rosa Vaquera lives in Barrio Logan and is a single mother of four children. According to CalEnviroScreen, Rosa’s community ranks in the top 25 percent of census tracts for pollution impact, including a high risk for asthma. Rosa and her daughter Ximena both suffer from asthma. Ximena's is an extreme type of asthma that prevents her from playing outdoors as frequently as other children her age. At the same time, Rosa and Ximena's asthma was also being aggravated indoors.

Maria and Ximena

[Learn how to create a healthy home for your family]


Healthy Homes Assessment

In 2018, Rosa attended a community-based EHC workshop on the air quality and monitoring at Perkins Elementary School. After the workshop, she filled out an intake form expressing interest in a Healthy Homes Assessment, and a possible indoor air filter for her home. An assessment of Rosa's home revealed that she did not open her windows for most of the day. This was mainly because of bad odors and loud noises common in her neighborhood.

The practice of keeping windows shut in her area is more accurately a result of air pollution and living in a neighborhood with an outdated community plan. The 1978 Barrio Logan community plan permits mixed land use zoning, allowing polluting industries and businesses to operate in residential areas, often much too close to homes and schools. Rosa and Ximena live next door to such industries.

During the Healthy Homes Assessment, EHC learned that Ximena would have asthma attacks on a monthly basis, often at night. In an attempt to improve air circulation, Rosa would open windows, but only in the kitchen and not in the living room or children's bedrooms. This created poor air circulation, especially in Ximena’s small, shared room where the window always remained closed. Rosa also regularly hired friends to clean her house when her family was not home due to their extreme sensitivity to toxic cleaning supplies.

Living in a Healthier Home

Rosa has implemented many of the recommendations given to her after EHC's Healthy Homes Assessment. These include having most of the windows open to improve air circulation, use of non-toxic cleaning solutions, and turning on her stove fan while cooking. EHC determined that Rosa's home qualified to receive indoor and outdoor air monitors and a Home IQ Air Filter. Both Rosa and Ximena are breathing much better because of living in a healthier home.

EHC is committed to improving the quality of life in our communities by fighting conditions that expose low-income communities of color to environmental hazards. We want Ximena to grow up healthy with clean air, regardless of where she lives.

June is National Healthy Homes Month (NHHM). This year's theme is Growing Up Healthy: 5 Minutes to a Healthier Home, and it focuses on the opportunity to protect current and future generations of children from the exposures to lead from contaminated paint, dust and soil; through the importance of home assessments and the impact it has on your health.

At EHC, we believe that a home should be a safe and nurturing environment, especially for children. Everyone deserves a healthy home, yet this is not the lived reality for many residents in low-income communities of color. Many homes in San Diego's environmental justice (EJ) communities were built before 1979 and may have lead-based paint hazards in and around the buildings, which can cause permanent brain damage and other serious health problems in children.

Read Rosa and Ximena's story

 

CHECK OUT THESE INFOGRAPHICS FROM NHHM:

NHHM Lead Poisoning      NHHM Pet Friendly


More Infographics

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Here are eight principles of keeping a home healthy (from HUD):

  1. Keep it Dry
    Prevent water from entering your home through leaks in roofing systems, rainwater from entering the home due to poor drainage, and check your interior plumbing for any leaking.

  2. Keep it Clean
    Control the source of dust and contaminants, creating smooth and cleanable surfaces, reducing clutter, and using effective wet-cleaning methods.

  3. Keep it Safe
    Store poisons out of the reach of children and properly label. Secure loose rugs and keep children's play areas free from hard or sharp surfaces. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and keep fire extinguishers on hand.

  4. Keep it Well-Ventilated
    Ventilate bathrooms and kitchens and use whole house ventilation for supplying fresh air to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the home.

  5. Keep it Pest-free
    All pests look for food, water, and shelter. Seal cracks and openings throughout the home; store food in pest-resistant containers. If needed, use sticky-traps and baits in closed containers, along with least toxic pesticides such as boric acid powder.

  6. Keep it Contaminant-free
    Reduce lead-related hazards in pre-1978 homes by fixing deteriorated paint, and keeping floors and window areas clean using a wet-cleaning approach. Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring dangerous gas that enters homes through soil, crawlspaces, and foundation crack. Install a radon removal system if levels above the EPA action-level are detected.

  7. Keep your home Maintained
    Inspect, clean and repair your home routinely. Take care of minor repairs and problems before they become large repairs and problems.

  8. Thermally Controlled
    Houses that do not maintain adequate temperatures may place the safety of residents at increased risk from exposure to extreme cold or heat.


MORE RESOURCES

How to Keep a Healthy Home

Healthy Homes Youth App

 

Blood lead testing

Lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat to children, and also considered the most preventable.

On June 6, EHC set up to test children’s levels of lead at Birney Elementary School – one of the schools that recently tested high for lead in their water. We tested 63 children and fortunately, did not find any alarming cases and could give parents peace of mind.

Our work to prevent childhood lead poisoning has been a fundamental piece of our organization for many years. With simple tests, grassroots advocacy, increased public knowledge and eventually, statewide regulation, EHC and partners stopped lead contamination in candies several years ago. You can learn more about that victory for our neighborhoods here.

Now, the work continues. Please join us to support a statewide bill that monitors school water for levels of lead (AB 746).

This bill would become a public health victory for our communities by:

  • Ensuring that schools prevent lead in drinking water
  • Protecting children and staff in schools from the health consequences of lead contamination
  • Requiring all public schools to annually test drinking water for lead
  • Standardizing the practice for local educational agencies to notify parents/guardians about lead contamination and shut down the source of lead when it’s identified

If you believe that one child with lead poisoning is too many, please sign this letter and share on social media to tell our elected officials that now is the time to support AB 746.

To learn more about keeping children safe and preventing lead in drinking water, parents should click here.

Since the beginning of my internship with the healthy kids campaign at EHC, I’ve appreciated working in an environment where independence is encouraged and using my voice is expected.

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My recent attendance at a blood-lead testing event, where neighbors can get screened for lead poisoning, reminded me why we work everyday to build strong leaders for healthy communities.

The event took place in City Heights, a neighborhood I’ve called home for almost 15 years. I watched kids come and go throughout the day to get their blood tested for lead. I met pregnant mothers also getting tested to ensure they and their baby will live long, healthy lives. Passionate parents advocating for a healthy future for their children begins even sooner than I had imagined.

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At EHC, we talk about leadership as the core of environmental and social justice. If you ever want to see what true leadership looks like, come to our next blood-lead testing event. You’re bound to be inspired by caring parents doing everything they can to lead their kids toward a healthier future.

Gaby
Healthy Kids Intern

A clean-looking home doesn’t always mean a healthy home. Many store-bought cleaners are harmful and full of toxic chemicals that you and your family breathe in long after the cleaning is done. Even though they clean the dirt away, your home might even be less healthy than when you started. Luckily, our Healthy Home Experts have tips to keep your home both clean and healthy with non-toxic cleaning techniques that are often much cheaper than toxic products. Below are some tips from our Healthy Homes experts on toxic-free ways to keep your house clean.

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All-Purpose Cleaner (for spots on linoleum, tile and woodwork)

Ingredient:

  • Murphy’s Liquid Soap
  1. Squeeze a drop of soap on a wet Easy-wipe
  2. Rub the area to be cleaned briskly. An Easy-wipe will last longer and create less waste than a sponge or paper towels. 

Refrigerator

  • Place a small open block or container of baking soda inside the refrigerator to eliminate bad odors

Air Freshener

  • Place small containers of baking soda around your home to absorb bad odors.

Carpet Freshener

Ingredients:

  1. Sprinkle small amounts of baking soda on the carpet.
  2. Let it set for an hour
  3. Vacuum the baking soda up – do not use on wet carpet!

Tub And Sink

Ingredients:

  • Baking soda
  • Murphy’s Liquid Soap
  1. Sprinkle it on porcelain fixtures and rub with a wet rag.
  2. Add a little soap to the rag for more cleaning power.
  3. Rinse well to avoid leaving a hazy film

Drains

Ingredients:

  • Baking Soda
  • Boiling Water
  • Vinegar
  • Fresh Lemon
  1. This recipe will free minor clogs. Treat your drains on a regular basis to prevent future clogs.
  2. Pour half a cup of baking soda into the drain first.
  3. Pour half a cup of vinegar into the drain.
  4. Let it fizz for a few minutes.
  5. Then pour one to two quarts of boiling water into the drain.
  6. Repeat if needed. If the clog is stubborn, use a plunger. If very stubborn, use a mechanical snake. Avoid letting fats, oils or grease into the drain to prevent clogs.

To keep drains smelling good, grind thin lemon slices in the garbage disposal. If you do not have a garbage disposal, squeeze the lemon juice into each drain.

Ovens

Ingredients:

  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Scrubbing pads
  1. Mix one cup of baking soda with enough water to make a paste.
  2. Apply to oven surfaces and let stand a little while.
  3. Use the scouring pad for scrubbing most surfaces.
  4. A spatula or bread knife is effective to scrape off large food deposits.

This recipe will require extra scrubbing. Clean up spills in the oven after each use or spot clean it regularly. Do not use this on self cleaning ovens. 

Other Helpful Tips

  • Use the spray bottle to hold a mixture of vinegar and water for quick clean-ups in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Spray the bathtub, shower walls and curtain with vinegar and water to reduce or eliminate mold and soap scum.
  • Keep different colored gloves in the kitchen and bathroom for use only in those areas to avoid spreading germs.