Baltimore, Sept. 15 -- Officials of several federal departments and agencies vowed today to work together to promote green home construction and renovation in order to reduce major health issues from mold, radon, lead paint, and other hazards, and the costs associated with those issues.
"I am pleased to see such strong bipartisan support," said Roy A. Bernardi, deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), told about 500 federal, state, local, and business leaders attending the first National Healthy Homes Conference. Many departments and agencies have healthy home initiatives, but the conference marked the first joint effort by the groups, a HUD spokeswoman said.
During the opening session, Stephen L. Johnson, administrator of the EPA, recalled a conversation he had had that morning: "When I was driving here today, a colleague said that we want to create a great house. I said we want to make it a great healthy, eco-friendly, green house."
Baltimore was chosen as the host city for the three-day event because it has reduced lead poisoning in children by 95% percent during the past 10 years, and because it's now spearheading a healthy homes initiative. About 1,000 people from around the country attended the event.
Bernardi said it was particularly important to provide eco-friendly homes for children because they spend 80% to 90% of their time indoors. "We need to make sure homes ... are free of mold and mildew, poor air quality, and exposure to toxic chemicals," he said.
Mold and mildew causes 21% of all asthma cases, noted Rear Admiral Robert C. Williams, acting deputy surgeon general. He added that besides youngsters, low-income workers, persons with disabilities, and the elderly are the most negatively impacted by unhealthy homes.
"We have to move toward a prevention-based society, away from a treatment-based society," Williams said, noting that there needs to be broad outreach to educate homeowners, builders, architects, and public health officials about creating healthy dwellings.
"There is no magic shot we could take to create eco-friendly homes," Johnson said to close the session. "But by working together ... we can create great, green healthy homes."