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'Healthy Homes' Aims To Identify Health Threats

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D.C. health officials are visiting homes in the District to identify and eliminate health hazards.
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D.C. health officials are visiting homes in the District to identify and eliminate health hazards.

In a small apartment in Northwest, D.C. Caroline Sunshine is tugging at the refrigerator door. But Sunshine isn't interested in what's inside the refrigerator. She wants to know what's behind it.

"Ah there we go," she says. "All right, see that hole? That's easy for a rat to get through. Mice too."

Sunshine is with the D.C. Department of the Environment, and she says rodent droppings, as well as mold and peeling paint, exacerbate asthma. So she and her colleagues are making the rounds to find out what health hazards are lurking in residents' homes.

Harrison Newton, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says, afterward agency officials will be following up with landlords to make sure that the violations are fixed.

"We know that rodents and mice in a home can exacerbate asthma," says Harrison. "We know that closing holes in particular ways can stop their recurrence. We know that water moisture, whether it's leaks or ventilation that causes mold, we know how to fix that. There are many things out there we know how to fix. Environmental problems impacting asthma, we know exactly what to do."

The CDC funded the District's new Healthy Homes program, which aims to evaluate the residences of at-risk children and those who have been hospitalized for asthma.

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