April 10, 2013 – On Friday, April 12, City Code Enforcement Officers will attend an all-day training on healthy housing issues in Omaha. The training is a pilot program funded by the EPA and the National Center for Healthy Housing.
Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, a local nonprofit that works on Healthy Housing issues, is working with the Planning Department to ensure the training meets their needs. According to the Alliance’s CEO, Kara Eastman, this training demonstrates a strong commitment on behalf of the City to address issues in homes like mold, lead poisoning hazards, carbon monoxide, safety issues and asthma triggers. According to Eastman, “our Planning Department was handpicked to have this training brought to us; it shows how committed our city is to finding innovative solutions to complex problems.”
The training is being offered to City Code Enforcement Officers and Building Inspectors, as well as the Douglas County Health Department Lead Risk Assessors and Omaha Housing Authority Inspectors. It will focus on the connection between the structure of the home, violations in codes or regulations, and their potential impact on the health of the occupants. About 30 people are expected to be trained.
On February 13th, 2013, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mike Johanns
(R-NE) introduced two bills pertaining to healthy housing, the Title X
Amendments Act and the Healthy Housing Council Act. The bipartisan bills
seek to better integrate healthy housing activities into the ongoing
lead poisoning prevention work at the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development (HUD) and improve federal coordination of healthy
housing efforts. The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) praises
Senator Reed’s and Senator Johanns’ initiative and commitment to
presenting the bills to their esteemed colleagues and peers for
bipartisan Congressional support.
“The introduction of the two bills reflects a much needed commitment to
the creation of healthy, sustainable homes. NCHH will continue to seek
support for such impactful and efficiency-minded legislation,” said
Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy
Housing. “We commend Senators Reed and Johanns for continuing to take a
strong role in bringing the nation’s focus to the importance of
improving housing conditions throughout our neighborhoods.”
The Title X Amendments Act, S. 290, which is co-sponsored by Senators Al
Franken (D-MN), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), would permit HUD to continue
to carry out healthy housing activities while protecting important
ongoing lead remediation efforts, and streamline families’ eligibility
for assistance. The amendments are necessary reforms designed to improve
and expedite the delivery of cost-effective services, while aligning
legislative authority with current needs and practices.
Technical amendments to Title X of the Housing and Community Development
Act will accomplish major policy goals including: Expand the existing Title
X statute to enable other health and safety threats to be treated through
the lead hazard control grant program at HUD.Permit a healthy homes and
lead hazard control grantee to use another program’s income and
eligibility information to qualify for HUD lead and healthy homes funds.Add
a provision to include zero-bedroom units in HUD’s lead hazard control
program.Allow tribal governments to apply for funding, as well as
non-profit organizations that have the support of state or local
On January 22, 2013, Senator Sara Howard of Omaha introduced LB 427, the Carbon Monoxide Safety Act, which would require that owners of single-family and multi-family dwellings install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors in their properties by September 1, 2014. The properties are described as having fire fueled heaters or appliances, fireplaces and attached garages. The carbon monoxide detectors are to be installed within 15 feet of any entrance to each room used for sleeping.
The Centers for Disease Control lists Nebraska as the number one state in the country for carbon monoxide (CO) related deaths. Carbon monoxide leaks occur when homes have cracked heat exchanges, faulty furnaces, or inefficient seals in piping. Residents in older homes are at higher risk, especially if furnaces and chimneys have not been maintained regularly.
“Today I introduced LB 427 to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in Nebraska”, says Senator Howard. “This bill is a common sense solution that will protect Nebraska’s families from sickness and death caused by carbon monoxide.”
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:37 pm
Lead vigilance is still needed
Omaha’s lead problem is yielding to concentrated attack. The last of five companies has paid $500,000 into a settlement, and the number of children with high levels of lead in their blood has fallen dramatically since 1999. That’s when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began to scour the city in what became the biggest mop-up of lead-contaminated yards in history.
But Omaha parents shouldn’t become complacent, because potential problems remain, though perhaps in a less easily recognized form.
Omaha’s lead contamination problem built up over more than a century, with the riverfront home to lead processing companies for 120 years. The EPA recognized a severe problem with elevated lead levels in many children’s blood and addressed it with vigor.
In the 1990s, some 20 percent of Douglas County children who were tested had high levels, while the national average was closer to 4 percent. More than 11,500 yards, most in 27 square miles of eastern Omaha, underwent soil removal and replacement. Some 1,963 remain to be cleaned and 1,871 have yet to be tested. The EPA expects to finish the job in 2015.
That cleanup, plus public education, repairs to lead paint on homes, increased testing and other changes, have resulted in a significant drop in Douglas County children testing high for lead — 0.8 percent in 2010.
Lead is particularly dangerous to children because it can harm behavior and intellect.
In many cities around the United States, lead paint and other household sources caused the most severe lead problems. While much of Omaha’s contamination came from the riverfront, lead paint on older houses and other environmental sources remain a danger. And in this instance, the problem isn’t necessarily limited to eastern Omaha, meaning parents across the city need to be vigilant.
Paint on older houses may be lead-based and can flake or powder off, to be consumed accidentally by small children. Experts say many items in a child’s environment — keys, toys, cheap jewelry, old candles, some imported foods, lead solder and tap water from lead pipes — are potentially dangerous.
Omahans who have been inconvenienced by the years of cleanup should be congratulated for their patience and sacrifices. They can take pride in putting up with major excavations, traffic, noise, dirt and heavy equipment for the good of all the city’s children. And, of course, those who have had their children tested for lead can be proud of taking vital action to protect them.
But many children at highest risk aren’t being tested, so lead still potentially threatens them.
The EPA and Omaha have made progress against lead contamination, but difficult work remains. The obvious problem has been attacked and mostly tamed. Now come the issues of education, awareness and action — lead problems that may remain are more subtle, easier to overlook. That might not seem as urgent.
It is up to parents to keep the pressure on, to see that their children are tested and to follow through. Lead is still an enemy, and vigilance is the best response.
US Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 – EPA Announces Recipients of 2012 Environmental Justice Small GrantsDecember 6th, 2012
Recipient: Nebraska Families Collaborative (NFC)
Project Name: Fostering Healthy Homes Project
Project location: Boys Town, NE
Issue: Lead exposure prevention
“Foster Families Educated on Prevention of Lead Poisoning”
The project will identify and reduce the incidents of lead poisoning in foster homes by implementing a three pronged approach: 1) “Healthy Home Assessments” will be offered to 445 foster families residing in four high lead concentration zip code areas; 2) environmental hazards education will be offered to 130 staff in nine foster care agencies, 220 NFC staff, and 1,379 foster homes where NFC case manages children; and 3) environmental hazards education will be offered to families in the general community who reside in the four high lead-level concentration zip code areas, as well as, other families residing in low income, underserved communities in Douglas and Sarpy Counties who may be at high risk for environmental hazards. Over 200 children are poisoned by lead in Omaha each year as a result of interior lead-based paint hazards. Families will be educated on problems in their homes and provided information and referrals for services through the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance.