Two of four Habitat for Humanity houses built as part of the Build Smart, Breathe Easier national asthma education program were recently dedicated in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Merck, Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and HGTV's Carter Oosterhouse hosted ceremonies, at which each family received keys and toured their completed houses with asthma-healthy features for the first time.
In Philadelphia, Anna Johnson and her 18-year-old daughter Tatiana are ready to live in a house that doesn't have roof and water damage, moldy carpets and poor electrical wiring, which exist in their current home. A house with asthma-healthy features is important to Tatiana, who struggles with asthma, physical limitations and cognitive impairment. Tatiana, who uses a wheelchair, also is looking forward to a single-level house with wheelchair-accessible features.
"My family and I are excited to start our lives in our new house with asthma-healthy features," said Anna Johnson in a press release. "Asthma is a reality for Tatiana because sometimes the slightest thing can trigger her symptoms. I am hopeful that the additional modifications to this house can have a positive impact on Tatiana's asthma and her ability to use her wheelchair. I'm grateful to everyone who helped build our house as part of the Build Smart, Breathe Easier program."
In Los Angeles, Martha Partida and her family have also struggled with difficult living conditions in their current home, including poor insulation and mold. Some of these issues have become health hazards for two of Martha's children, due to their struggles with asthma. Although the family faces numerous challenges in their home-life, all of the children excel in school. Martha works as a pediatric service technician caring for children with long-term healthcare issues.
"I am sincerely thankful to have been a part of the Build Smart, Breathe Easier program and am thrilled to move my family into a four-bedroom house after living so long in a cramped space," said Martha Partida in the release. "The asthma-healthy features of my new home will benefit my whole family, particularly my two children who have asthma."
Based on principles from AAFA's asthma & allergy friendly Certification Program, these houses incorporate asthma-healthy features using specific building techniques, materials and ventilation systems. Some of these elements include:
- Hard-surface flooring, including wood, linoleum and ceramic tile
- Paint with a volatile organic compound (VOC)-free, antimicrobial finish, which helps prevent the adherence of mold or bacteria and has no lingering odor
- Cabinetry, counter tops and vanities designed to minimize the emission of VOCs
- Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) filters with high Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings, which capture more and smaller-sized air particles than filters with lower MERV ratings
- A washing machine that reaches water temperatures high enough to kill dust mites and their eggs
Advanced framing techniques that allow for heavy insulation of the exterior walls and reduce the amount of air and moisture infiltration. Expanding foam is also used around the exterior doors, windows and foundation wall to help reduce moisture flow and outside air that may contain additional asthma triggers from entering the house
Additionally, the Partida's house features blinds in all of the windows, as an alternative to fabric window treatments that can collect allergens, and a synthetic grass lawn and low pollinating plants to help reduce exposure to pollen and other outside allergens
The first house built with asthma-healthy features as part of the Build Smart, Breathe Easier program was dedicated in Detroit in July, and the final house in Atlanta will be dedicated later this month.
"Build Smart, Breathe Easier goes beyond building new houses by teaching families affected by asthma ways to address common triggers in order to help minimize the impact of the disease," said Dr. Reynold Panettieri, asthma researcher and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "It's also important for people with asthma to work with their doctors to determine an appropriate, individualized asthma action plan that fits their needs."
For more information, see our Indoor Air Quality research center.