Poor Home Conditions Lead to a Plethora of Health Problems in Children

There are too many children that are sick enough to stay home from school, go home too often from school or unable to perform well in school because of what is in their very own home.  The conditions of their houses can lead to physical as well as mental problems.

Lack of safe drinking water, an intrusion of insects and rats, lack of hot water for washing, inadequate food storage and ineffective waste disposal contribute to the spread of infectious diseases.

Passive exposure to indoor to indoor tobacco smoke is dangerous, and poor ventilation increases exposure to that smoke. Moderately elevated levels of carbon monoxide cause headaches and higher levels cause acute intoxication. Particleboard and floor coverings may emit volatile organic compounds which may be associated with asthma.  Asbestos exposure from deteriorating insulation leads to lung conditions as well. Lead exposure from leaded paints is known to cause neurodevelopmental abnormalities in children. Residential exposure to radon, usually caused by structural damage in basements, can cause lung cancer. Old carpeting may contain pesticide residue and other destructive compounds, which hurt the brain.

A healthy home needs to be free of hazards, to have sound structure It needs to have adequate places for sleeping, personal hygiene as well as the preparation and storage of food. If a hazard is necessary and unavoidable, then any potential harm which could result should be reduced to a minimum. Inadequate insulation leads to more vulnerability from the cold as well as form the heat. Both can cause various sicknesses.  Children and fetuses are particularly vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning, which comes from poorly ventilated and maintained combustion sources. There are harmful effects such as significant neurological symptoms. Radon causes the most important housing-related hazards. It readily diffuses through the air, is soluble in water and can accumulate in the structure of the house. Children who breathe in too much radon are at risk for acute lymphatic leukemia. There are a number of engineering solutions to reduce radon levels inside a home.

Sick Building Syndrome

During the energy crisis in the seventies, many builders took measures to reduce energy consumption in office buildings, homes, and schools. Many of the changes included increased insulation in building wraps, windows, and doors. Some had windows that didn’t open, to minimize the loss of heat or air conditioning.

Sick building syndrome is the name given to a collection of symptoms and illnesses that affect many occupants in the same building. Some of the symptoms are:

  • nausea
  • itchy eyes, nose, and throat
  • stuffy noses
  • headaches
  • fatigue or lethargy
  • difficulty concentrating

Many governmental agencies that have done research on sick building syndrome believe that the problem is mostly related to air quality. This can come from these sources:

  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Microbial contamination
  • Contamination from the building fabric
  • Contamination from inside the building
  • Contamination from outside of the building
  • Unknown Sources

Dampness and mold have been linked to a number of health problems including respiratory symptoms, nausea and vomiting, and confusion. Dampness is also associated with an increase of fungal spores and house dust mites. Both of these are very common allergens.

Improving ventilation and eliminating sources of smog and contaminants in the air are the first places to take care of for sick building syndrome. The next is cleaning up wet or damp areas. Mold and mildew can cause or aggravate allergies. Find any sources of standing water or dampness and repair all leaks.  Getting a competent plumber to repair all leaks such as a Melbourne leak detection plumber can be extremely helpful.

It may be necessary to install HVLS fans for proper ventilation. OSHA states that the most effective fan for the indoors must ensure an adequate supply of fresh air either through natural or mechanical means. It recommends following the ASHRAE specifications and to get high volume, low speed, reversible fans. Reversible fans work in both summer and winter.

HVAC systems need to have filters changed regularly as well as regular tune-ups. The best thing to do is to bring in a service that specializes in this.  This service can also check to make sure that the equipment is not creating any emissions it shouldn’t.

There are other risks concerning the home of a child. These include:

  • Contaminated water
  • Noise
  • Electrical hazards
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Crowding- this may lead to accidents, fires, dampness, and mold, as well as mental clarity.
  • Poor ergonomics
  • Structural failure

When a child is repeatedly sick or unable to perform in school, it would be helpful for the teacher to consider that it may be a problem with the child’s home. Since many parents and doctors miss this cause, sending a note home with the child, calling or visiting the child’s family may be appropriate and improve the health of the child.

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