Weatherization and home environment improvements are cost-effective in helping low-income families with asthma
OLYMPIA, WA – Gov. Jay Inslee joins the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in recognizing June as Washington Healthy Homes Month, highlighting new efforts to improve health outcomes and save money for low-income families living with asthma.
“Healthy homes” are homes with fewer health and safety hazards such as lead-based paint, radon, mold, pests and allergens that can cause or contribute to a wide range of illnesses and diseases including lead poisoning, asthma and cancer. Low-income families are more likely than higher-income families to experience these hazards in their homes.
Low-income households also have higher rates of asthma, and children with asthma have the highest rates of hospitalization. In Washington state in 2010, people with asthma made 164,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms, and paid $73 million for asthma-related hospitalizations. Public funds paid for about 60 percent of these costs.
In an era of shrinking state and federal budgets, Washington’s “Weatherization Plus Health” pilot project is maximizing the return on grants that help fund weatherization and energy efficiency improvements in low-income homes by targeting those affected by asthma.
Over 500 such households in Snohomish, Whatcom, Pierce, Yakima, Walla Walla, King and Spokane Counties have benefited from $2.3 million invested over the last two years through the program. Resources focus on reducing home asthma triggers, such as carpets, pests, water damage, mold and improving ventilation.
A 2014 national study of the HUD Low-income Weatherization Assistance Program by Oak Ridge National Laboratory showed that weatherization in homes with asthma reduced asthma emergency room visits significantly.
Washington’s Weatherization Plus Health assesses qualified low-income housing to look for measures that can reduce energy waste and energy bills, while also assessing the housing environment conditions that may be worsening asthma symptoms for vulnerable children and adults.
“Weatherization Plus Health is a smart investment in cost-effective energy improvements that result in healthier environments and healthier lives for families throughout Washington state,” said Gov. Inslee.
“This state investment strengthens communities by helping reduce costly energy and medical bills for people who can least afford them,” said Michael Furze, assistant director of the energy division at the Department of Commerce.
Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, 206-256-6106