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Tuesday December 7th

Orange County Habitat for Humanity talks home, health and safety in a new panel series

Krishnaveni Balakrishnan, left, and Ceila Loughlin speak on a panel about the intersection between housing and health on Sept. 4, 2019.
Buy Photos Krishnaveni Balakrishnan, left, and Ceila Loughlin speak on a panel about the intersection between housing and health on Sept. 4, 2019.

Habitat for Humanity of Orange County hosted a housing and health panel Wednesday to discuss the safety and health risks posed in some United States homes. 

Habitat said, 45 percent of U.S. homes exhibit a health or safety risk, such as mold, broken stairs or windows and exposure to lead and other toxic chemicals. 

This discussion was the first of a panel series, called Home is the Key, which is being hosted in celebration of its 35th anniversary. The series will continue through October and November with two more panel discussions. 

“I would say it affects almost all of the patients that I see in one way or another,” said Dr. Ceila Loughlin, medical director of the N.C. Children’s Allergy & Asthma Center. “Mold is a big one, but then cockroaches and rodents can also affect children with asthma.”

Krishnaveni Balakrishnan, coordinator for the Orange County Health Department's Healthy Homes initiative, is a certified inspector who conducts house visits. Balakrishnan said during these inspections, she searches for potential health hazards, such as mold, improper drainage, pests and vermin as well as wet spots on the ceiling.

“Usually there’s the telltale sign,” Balakrishnan said. “Usually what I ask the family as well is, ‘Are you having any issues breathing? Have you been to the hospital lately or have anything related to asthma?’”

Balakrishnan said a common issue she finds is that landlords don’t take care of the property or handle hazardous situations properly. 

“One of the homes that I actually looked at last year was a family of five that had just moved to Greensboro, and the home was beautiful, but the landlord had not been keeping up the property,” Balakrishnan said. “When they moved, they didn’t know that he had painted over all of the mold that was in the house.”

Two weeks after the family moved into the house, the walls began to turn dark green, causing them to have allergies and breathing problems. 

When this happens, Balakrishnan said she refers these families to various housing agencies, such as EmPOWERment, Inc., to help them find new housing. 

Loughlin said if the county has resources available, she will try to pair families with North Carolina Healthy Homes, an organization that works to identify environmental issues in the home and educate families about inexpensive cleaning products without asthma triggering fumes. 

Loughlin said there are some solutions she is working on integrating within the community to improve this issue, like home repairs and education. Balakrishnan said she plans to get these families extra support by working closely with doctors. 

“When I go in, I find out that patients are either not able to keep up with the medication or decided not to get it again because they can’t afford to purchase it,” Balakrishnan said. “What I try to do is sit down with the family and try to provide that extra support, that extra health education.”

@diane_adame

city@dailytarheel.com

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