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Healthy Homes Program

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For Additional Program Information Call

John Sobolewski, RS
Deputy Director
(216) 201-2000 ext. 1515
Stephanie McConoughey, RS
Program Manager
(216) 201-2000 ext. 1244

Most people think that your genes determine your health. However, we know that many other factors contribute to it, such as diet, exercise, and vaccinations. Another critical factor that we can control is our environment. Some of the most serious health problems may be attributed to your home environment. This is a major concern, since most people spend up to 90% of their time indoors.

Indoor environmental hazards are more harmful to children because of their still growing and developing bodies. Their organs and immune system are not fully mature; therefore are more likely to be damaged then adults. Moreover, children eat more food, drink more water, and breathe more air than adults. Young children also have a tendency to put things into their mouths.

These environmental hazards can be broken down into 7 main categories:

  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
  • Lead
  • Hazardous Household Products/Pesticides
  • Home Safety
  • Senior Safety
  • Drinking Water
  • Pests

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air can be unhealthier and more polluted then outdoor air. Pollutants can include cleaning chemicals, cigarette smoke, or mold. Other non-visible dangers include carbon monoxide and radon.


Lead poisoning is a serious threat to the health of children. Lead was banned from use in paint in 1978. It is still the number one source of lead exposure in the US today. Ohio ranks 5th out of 39 states, according to the EPA, in the number of homes with lead based paint; approximately 3.2 million.

There is no safe level of lead in the human body. To determine your child’s lead level, a blood test needs to be conducted. Lead accumulates in the brain, kidneys, blood and bones. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, language delays, hearing problems, and behavioral problems. Children under 6 years of age are at the highest risk due to their still developing neurological system. Those children who are ages 1 and 2 are of primary concern because of hand-to-mouth activities and their activity on the floor. Children may be exposed to lead through deteriorating paint conditions, soil, and water. Your home may be tested for lead and corrected.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health has a grant to remediate lead hazards in your home.

To qualify you must:

  • have a child under 72 months of age (5 or younger) who spends significant amounts of time in your home
  • live in a community that is considered a “first ring” community (it touches the city of Cleveland)
  • meet the income guidelines

To see if you may qualify for the grant, please contact our office by calling (216)201-2000 ext 1527.

If you live in the City of Cleveland, you should contact the City of Cleveland Department of Public Health at 216-263-LEAD.  If you live in the City of Cleveland Heights, you should contact the City Housing & Preservation office at 216-291-4869.  

Household Allergens

The job of the body’s immune system is to identify and destroy germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that make you sick. An allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless protein – an allergen – as a threat and attacks it. Allergens can cause a range of “allergic reactions” from minor skin irritation or watery eyes to potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. You can come into contact with allergens by touching them, eating them, or breathing them in. A number of allergens can be found inside your home including animal dander, cockroaches, dust and dust mites, mold and tobacco smoke. You can find more information about each of these below or by visiting the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. To learn about food allergies, visit our Food Allergies page or Food Allergy Research & Education, Inc.Hazardous Household Products and Pesticides

Household chemicals and pesticides are not hazardous if they are used properly, if you follow the manufacturer’s directions, and if they are stored properly. Never leave the product or container where children can see it or reach it. Hazards arise when some of the products are mixed, accidentally ingested, touched, or inhaled. These can lead to vomiting, burns, dizziness, or asthma attacks. When utilizing bug repellent on children, read the directions first. Do not use over broken skin or cuts. Avoid contact with eyes, mouth, and hands. Use enough to cover the top of clothes and lightly on the skin.

In case of an accident, immediately call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222

Home Safety

Your chances of getting hurt in your home are much higher than at work or school. The main types of home accidents include falls, drowning, fire, poisoning, suffocation, choking, and firearm use. Young children and older adults are more typically likely to become injured or die as a result of an accident in the home. All of these accidents are easily preventable once you become aware of the hazards.


Senior Safety

Every year, millions of older Americans are injured in and around their homes. It is estimated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that 1.4 million people 65 and older are treated in the emergency room for injuries occurring in the home. Of those, two-thirds are from falls. Falls and fires are the leading cause of unintentional injuries in those 65 and older. Older adults have a higher death rate from fires than the rest of the population.



Safe water is essential. We depend on water for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning. Although the public drinking water in the United States is safe, there are times when your individual home water supply may be a concern.

If you have a well, it is your responsibility to keep it safe. Bacteria and viruses may get into the water system and possibly lead to gastro-intestinal illnesses. Nitrates may also enter the water supply from fertilizers and animal waste and cause serious illnesses. A contaminated private well may potentially impact the underground water supply (aquifer), which could also serve as the source of water for many of your neighbors.

Click here to obtain information on how to chlorinate a well that has been contaminated with bacteria.

Public water supplies are safe entering the home, but once they pass through your pipes, the water may become contaminated. If you have copper or lead pipes and the metal leaches into the water, illnesses may arise. Copper may cause upper gastro-intestinal irriations. Lead poisonong can result in learning and behavioral problems. In order to prevent these potential hazards, the pipes need to be flushed if water has not been run through them (overnight). Run water for several minutes before drinking it, especially first thing in the morning. Never use hot water from the tap for cooking, drinking, or making baby formula; hot water chemically leaches the lead and copper out of the pipe.


Cockroaches live in various environments, but thrive in warm, dark, moist environments. A cockroach is considered a scavenger due to the fact it can and will consume any food source. The average life span of a cockroach is 1 year. In that time frame a female may have up to 8 egg cases, each case containing up to 40 eggs. That would equal 400 offspring in 1 lifetime (1 year).

Some people have a problem with cockroaches in their homes. Most people do not know they have a problem until it is excessive. People that are asthmatic or have allergies may react to cockroach dust (dried body parts or droppings). Cockroach dust is considered the most severe asthmatic trigger.

To limit having a cockroach problem:

  • Keep all food, including pet food, and garbage in closed containers. NEVER leave food out!
  • Do not leave dirty dishes or food containers out
  • Eat only in the kitchen/dining room
  • Thoroughly clean kitchen floors with a household cleaner and clean rinse water to remove any food or cockroach dust
  • Clean up clutter

Dust & Dust Mites

Household dust is a mixture of shed human skin cells, pet dander, fabric fibers, mold spores, bacteria, dirt and dust mites. Dust may not indicate a dirty house; however, a dirty house can irritate your respiratory passages. To control dust, it is important that you clean regularly. Vacuum carpets that cannot be laundered, vacuum fabric upholstery, dust surfaces with a damp cloth, mop floors and wash linens. These procedures are similar for control of dust mites.

Dust mites are second only to pollen causing allergic reactions. Dust mites are not visible to the naked eye. They live in bedding, couches, carpet, stuffed toys and old clothing. Dust mites feed on the dead skin that falls off the people and animals where they live and/or sleep. When dust mites grow, they shed their skin. This skin and their feces are what cause allergic reactions in people. Allergic reactions range from itchy noses and eyes to severe asthma attacks. Dust mites need food and about 70% relative humidity or higher to live. Areas where people spend much time, like a bed or favorite plush chair or couch, are prime locations for dust mites.

Control of dust mites can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Dust mite control ranges from washing all bedding and stuffed toys at least every two weeks in hot water and enclosing mattresses and pillows in hypo-allergic coverings, to the extreme of removing carpeting, curtains & drapes, upholstered furniture and replacing them with wood or tile floors, plastic shades and wood or plastic furniture.

Animal Dander

Dander is dead skin shed from animals. Some people with asthma or allergies may have a reaction to the dander from pets in the home. Cats are typically the pet associated with dander issues. The best thing to do is keep furred and/or feathered pets out of the home if you are sensitive. If you can’t remove them from your home:

  • DON’T: Allow pets in the bedroom or allow them to sleep in the bed or couch with you
  • DO: Wash your hands and face after handling the pet or being in a house with a pet as dander sticks to clothes and hands
  • DO: Vacuum and clean pet sleeping areas often
  • DO: Vacuum carpet and furniture often
  • DO: Bathe the pet often, but check with your vet first on recommended bathing frequency

What can you do? You can take some of these simple steps to help improve the health of your home and those living in it:

  • Avoid and/or reduce mold growth by drying or removing any water-damaged carpets, building materials, furniture, or paper based materials
  • Avoid or reduce mold growth by repairing leaks and maintaining dehumidifiers and air conditioners (emptying water trays in dehumidifiers and window AC units frequently)
  • Prevent carbon monoxide exposure by keeping gas appliances properly vented and serviced, and having your heating system cleaned and checked at the beginning of every heating season
  • Change filters on central cooling and heating systems and air cleaners according to the manufacturer’s directions
  • Regularly clean the vents in your kitchen, bathroom and dryer, and make sure they work properly
  • Test your home for radon
  • Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home
  • Use natural household cleaning products and reduce exposure to potentially harmful airborne chemicals
  • Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques indoors whenever possible
  • Routinely clean bedding and flooring