Friday, November 13, 2009

Toxic Housing and Health

An article in today's SFGate recounts the struggles of children living with asthma caused, in part, by overcrowded, run-down, aging buildings in one of San Francisco's oldest neighborhoods. The plight of kids with asthma in the Mission district is but one example of ways the built environment has serious consequences on health and well being.

Last Winter we wrote here about Breathe Easy homes in the High Point neighborhood of West Seattle. These ultra-green homes are built for low-income families where some members are asthma sufferers and they have been successful in improving asthma symptoms and decreasing hospital visits.

Integrating some of these green features into other low-income communities where aging, toxic buildings are taking a toll on health would make an enormous difference. But, as the SFGate article suggests, there are some steep obstacles: corrupt landlords and indifferent public policies have led to overcrowding and to an unwillingness to meet even the minimum standards of healthy housing.

Situations like these occur everywhere and in response, groups like those that make up the Alliance for Healthy Homes are working to make healthy homes a reality for everyone. Among other things, they are providing residents of toxic homes with the tools to document their situations and advocate for change.