To protect your family
from household hazards, you will need to both solve any existing problems
and keep new ones from becoming dangerous. The information accessible
from this page can aid in the process of maintaining a healthy home.
Some checks to evaluate and document housing condition problems are traditionally
performed by trained personnel on behalf of occupants or prospective tenants
- Home inspectors assist buyers in identifying issues
that warrant repair by the seller or further attention after purchase;
- Appraisers hired by lenders considering a mortgage
loan assess the value of the home and factor conditions into the determining
- Code inspectors respond to complaints, document
problems in rental housing that violate housing and health codes, and
issue citations that courts will enforce.
However, with the exception of evaluations prompted by health problems
(such as a risk assessment ordered to identify lead hazards in response
to a report of lead poisoning), most homes are never checked for health
hazards. This is especially true for substandard housing in low-income
communities that are at highest risk of health problems caused by environmental
In recent years, tools for detecting significant health hazards in housing
have become simpler, easier to use, and more affordable. A careful visual
inspection can spot obvious signs of conditions that lead to health hazards.
In some cases, it is necessary to collect environmental samples and send
them to a lab for scientific analysis.
Basic training can prepare homeowners, community volunteers, and others
to detect environmental hazards. While “expert” professionals
can be hired to perform intensive testing, serious problems can be detected
by individuals who have received entry-level training. For example, in
many states, a certified lead sampling technician with eight hours of
training can sample for and report on lead dust hazards.
The Alliance’s Community
Environmental Health Resource Center (CEHRC) worked to put
tools for detecting housing-related health hazards in the hands of community-based
organizations in neighborhoods at high risk. With limited training, community
members can master CEHRC's hazard assessment tools and interpret the results
properly. CEHRC's tools and step-by-step instructions were intended to
provide a low-cost means for checking high-risk housing for health hazards.
Instructions must be followed with care in collecting samples and interpreting
the results. Some of CEHRC's low-cost tools are available below, and are
effective in identifying serious health hazards, although more comprehensive
assessment tools produce more detailed and precise results.
CEHRC Hazard Detection Materials (more information available on the CEHRC
Other housing condition evaluation systems can be expanded to screen
for housing-related health hazards. For example, home inspections and
housing code inspections should add health hazards to the scope of these
Depending on the hazard and its severity, you may need to hire an expert
(such as a government certified specialist in lead, asbestos or radon)
or participate in a voluntary program (like those for integrated pest
management or radon).
In other cases, a do-it-yourself solution can be both practical and relatively
inexpensive. Some guidance on DIY lead-safe maintence is provided in the
Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance and Renovation Work. The Alliance
has excerpt of
the guide containing the table
of contents, step-by-step instructions and sketches on getting started
with a home maintenance or renovation project, painting, and cleaning
up lead safely. The entire
guide is available on the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development website.