Green and Healthy Homes Initiative launches in Bloomfield

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BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Healthier homes are being made in Bloomfield, as the Bloomfield Department of Health and Human Services has recently announced the launch of its Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. The educational program is designed to promote and create healthy, safe and hazard-free homes.

“We have grant funding from the state, and it’s a childhood lead-prevention grant. Part of the focus with healthy homes is actually the lead component. One of the things Healthy Homes inspectors look at when they go out into the field are possible areas of the home where there could be lead exposure, so they’ll make suggestions,” Assistant Health Officer Amy Monaco said on Tuesday, Sep. 7. “It’s really educational. When we go out, because we get an elevated blood lead level, in that case, there’s more of the regulatory component that comes into effect. But for this, it’s more to educate residents, so they can follow up on our recommendations.

“Once people are interested … we would schedule the appointment,’ she continued. “If you notice any mold, we suggest looking into that. For example, a bathroom or a ceiling that looks like it has water intrusion.”

According to a press release announcing the homes to be inspected, BDHHS staff members who have completed a two-day Green and Healthy Homes training course will conduct a detailed visual assessment and inform owners and renters of potential health hazards.

If hazards are found, Monaco said, renters should notify their landlord, so that the issue can be fixed. Homeowners can act themselves to rectify the issue. 

“Paint chips on windowsills could possibly be lead paint and, if they have a small child, we would recommend investigating that component. A nonworking smoke detector, we would point that out,” Monaco said. “If there’s any signs of pests — rodents, rodent feces, roaches — these are things they look for in which they can point that out so they can follow up on their own. Lead, rodents, mold, anything affecting air quality, such as a gas stove that isn’t properly ventilated — it’s really an assessment to let them know these are the things they might want to look out for. We’re not looking for violations. It’s purely educational.”

After the visit, participants will receive a free Green and Healthy Homes cleaning kit that includes cleaning products and how-tos on green-cleaning their homes. The visual report will come with an action plan completed during the home visit, to assist with identifying potential home hazards and ways to mitigate them.

“Regarding lead, most older homes have lead paint, to some extent, but it’s about what kind of condition it’s in,” Monaco said. “For example, if we see paint chips on windowsills, we recommend a wet clean and repaint of the area, and, if they have a small child, we would recommend … getting the child tested for lead poisoning,” Monaco said. “If there’s any signs of pests … renters can notify their landlord, while homeowners can call pest control. If they don’t have a smoke detector, they can recommend a smoke detector in different areas. They’ll give them ideas in a small way that they can do on their own, where it won’t cost a lot of money.”

The initiative is funded by a New Jersey Department of Health grant, which supports all childhood lead-prevention endeavors. Upcoming events are planned for this month at two day cares in Bloomfield. According to Monaco, the program is off to a great start. 

“The grant supports all of our childhood lead-prevention work, and the other big component we do is lead screening for day cares. We have a number of day cares in Bloomfield,” Monaco said. “We do capillary testing; we have a way to see if their blood levels are elevated, and then we would refer them to their pediatrician for further evaluation. There are a number of reasons why kids haven’t been screened, even though it is standard practice. We offer it, using money from the grant, and we go out into the community and do the free testing.”