Healthy Homes and Environmental Justice
CDC’s Healthy Homes Initiative is a comprehensive approach to preventing diseases and injuries caused by housing-related hazards. The initiative focuses on identifying health, safety, and quality-of-life issues in the home environment and to act systematically to eliminate or lessen problems. Healthy homes are a way of seeing environmental justice in action.
Economic, social, and cultural factors often drive exposure to environmental hazards. Most often these hazards harm minority, low-income, tribal, and other native populations disproportionately. That is, members of these groups are more often harmed by environmental hazards than are other groups.
Housing- related environmental hazards include:
- Exposure to lead: old, chipped paint, or other household dangers
- Pesticide residues
- Weak floors, beams, or other structural problems
- Tobacco smoke
- Mold and excessive moisture
People exposed to these environmental hazards are at higher risk for having poor health. Living in poor, separated areas in unsafe communities can also challenge these populations. People who face such challenges might not be able to resist, recover, or even survive housing-related environmental hazards.
Healthy homes are a key part of sustainable, healthy communities. In a healthy community, the environment is free from unhealthy materials. A healthy environment supports the overall health and well-being of the people living in the community.
Environmental justice means that:
- Access is increased to healthy, safe, and affordable homes.
- Environmental inequalities are considered when people develop, carry out, and enforce environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
- Environmental inequalities are addressed and solutions are created to reduce the harmful effects of environmental hazards on affected populations.
- The quality of life improves for vulnerable populations.
A key element of environmental justice is ensuring that vulnerable populations are involved in healthy homes policies, research, and interventions. To address this challenge CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch
- Promotes housing assessment and identifies disadvantaged communities at increased risk for housing-related hazards that affect health.
- Educates appropriate policymakers to set policy-development priorities that meet disadvantaged communities’ needs.
- Promotes resources and partnership development as essential components of healthy homes environmental justice initiatives.
- Encourages a policy development process that creates meaningful community involvement. Seeks out and brings in community residents to help plan, design, carry out, enforce, evaluate, and otherwise participate in the decision-making process.
- Develops a healthy homes environmental justice evaluation model.
U.S. EPA Office of Environmental Justice, http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/