Additional Resources

For New and Expectant Families

When a new baby is about to arrive, parents get to work preparing a safe environment for their new addition. Avoiding certain chemicals, eating healthy and exercising are vital during pregnancy. We’re here to help create a healthy environment by offering parents (and soon-to-be parents) resources for a safe and healthier pregnancy, baby and home.

“The scientific evidence over the last 15 years shows that exposure to toxic environmental agents before conception and during pregnancy can have significant and long-lasting effects on reproductive health.”

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

The umbilical cord is the lifeline between the mother and baby. However, studies show that the umbilical cord and placenta do not have the ability to protect the baby from harmful chemicals that the mother inhales, ingests, or absorbs through the skin

The Healthy Home Guide for
New & Expectant Families

Improving Our Indoor Air Quality

Within the home, many environmental triggers can impact the quality of the air we breathe, including cleaning products, ventilation, moisture, tobacco smoke, radon, and other household products. Poor indoor air quality can be a trigger for respiratory conditions like asthma and allergies both in adults and children.

  • For routine cleaning of hard/non-porous surfaces, select plant-based soaps/sprays rather than petroleum-based products. You can even make your own cleaning products by using household items such as vinegar and baking soda to remove dirt and germs.
  • For disinfecting hard surfaces, be sure to clean the surface first with a soap/detergent. Avoid bleach or chlorine based ready-to-use products and use hydrogen peroxide-based products for a safer alternative. Hydrogen peroxide (5-8%) or rubbing alcohol (at least 70%) can be used as a disinfectant and can be found in most stores.

Everyone has to deal with unwanted critters in their home. The droppings or body parts of cockroaches and other pests can trigger asthma and/or allergic reactions. There are safer and more effective ways to deal with pests than using chemicals. Insecticides and pesticides are not only toxic to pests — they can harm people, too.

  • Some pest management methods pose less of a risk:
    • Keep counters, sinks, tables, and floors clean and free of clutter.
    • Clean up dishes, crumbs, and spills right away.
    • Store food in airtight containers.
    • Seal cracks or openings around cabinets and the home’s foundation.
    • Use physical controls like sticky traps for insects and snap traps for rodents.
  • If after using all these methods, you may need to consider using a pesticide; choose products that limit hazards.

Also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic fumes are found in paint, stains, adhesives, carpet, cosmetics, cleaning fluids, and air fresheners. Parents usually decide to paint the nursery before the baby arrives and do not realize that these paints could release VOCs, which can be harmful to parent and children’s health. Seek paints with low or no VOCs when renovating/ remodeling/repainting.

  • Seek paints with low or no VOCs when renovating/ remodeling/repainting.
  • Change your furnace/AC filter every three months and vacuum carpets regularly (with a HEPA vacuum).

Maintenance Makes a Difference

Paint peeling on an old plaster wall

Keeping our home safe, intact, and maintained is crucial to limiting environmental exposures within our walls. Common exposures like chipping/peeling paint, rodents/pests, radon,
and mold can be linked to serious health effects

If your home was built before 1978, it is highly likely that lead-based paint is present. Lead is a neurotoxin, meaning it impacts the brain and central nervous system. When paint chips, crumbles, or begins peeling, the resulting dust contains lead and poses a health risk. Homes painted with lead paint on the exterior may leach lead into the soil when the paint is disturbed. Vacant lots may contain lead in the soil, especially if lead-containing products or materials were used in the once-standing property.

There is no safe level of lead in children. Even low levels of lead in blood affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement

If you live in a home that was built before 1978, keeping paint intact is crucial to minimizing exposure (especially around high-impact surface areas like windows and doors). Routine cleaning and wet dusting can also help minimize dust exposure.

If you are planning to do renovations in a home built before 1978, be sure to hire a RRP certified contractor who is qualified to minimize lead dust and properly clean after the renovation is complete. If you are planning to do your own renovation, make sure you are doing it in a lead safe way. Refer to GetTheLeadOutPgh.org for more information on safely renovating your home.

No More Mold

Mold grows where there is moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes; condensation (e.g., warm air on cold surfaces); or where there has been a flood. Mold grows on paper, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.

Woman wearing rubber gloves cleaning mold off of an indoor wall

Some people exposed to damp and moldy environments can experience a stuffy nose, wheezing, red and itchy eyes or skin, while others show no symptoms at all. Individuals with mold allergies or asthma may have more intense reactions. Severe reactions can include fever and shortness of breath.

Mold Prevention

Humidity

Keep humidity levels low. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will help

Ventilation

Increase ventilation by opening doors and windows. Use fans and bathroom exhaust fans.

Limit Carpet

Limit carpet use in bathrooms and other high moisture areas.

Repair Leaks

Repair leaks as soon as possible. Find the source of the problem first, fix it, and dry the area.

Cleaning Mold

Clean mold with soap and water or 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.

Invisible Invader: Radon

radon Rn chemical element icon

Radon is a gas that you cannot smell, taste, or see, and it forms naturally when uranium, radium, and thorium break down in rocks, soil, and groundwater. People can be exposed to radon primarily from breathing it in air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes. Inhaling radon can cause health problems, as radon is known to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Test annually during the winter months, if the level reads above 4 pCi/l consider installing a radon reduction system in the basement.

Shop Smart

The more you understand the products you buy and bring into your home, the healthier your home will be.

Baby Products

Young mother fingers applying white moisturizing cream on baby shoulder. Care about children clean and soft body skin. Closeup. Many infant and child personal care product brands have natural lines, but buyers beware that these products may still contain toxic chemicals. Choose products that are plant-based and have the fewest and safest ingredients. Remember, don’t expose your baby to products such as nail polish and makeup; they will have time for that as they get older.

Formula

Infant hands holding bottle of milk on light blue floor background. Feeding time. Pastel color. Closeup. Point of view shot. Top down view. It is not always possible to breastfeed, or a mother may have to supplement with formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that you seek iron-fortified formula for all infants who are not breastfed, and use filtered water when preparing it. Make sure to use an NSF-certified filter to remove the lead from the tap water. If you cannot filter your water, be sure to always use cold tap water when preparing formula or cooking food. 

Flooring

Close-up luxury white carpet on laminate wood floor in living room, interior decoration Many infant and child personal care product brands have natural lines, but buyers beware that these products may still contain toxic chemicals. Choose products that are plant-based and have the fewest and safest ingredients. Remember, don’t expose your baby to products such as nail polish and makeup; they will have time for that as they get older.

Cribs, Bedding, and Blankets

Small, white teddy bear in baby bed. Linen with clouds. Top view. It is not always possible to breastfeed, or a mother may have to supplement with formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that you seek iron-fortified formula for all infants who are not breastfed, and use filtered water when preparing it. Make sure to use an NSF-certified filter to remove the lead from the tap water. If you cannot filter your water, be sure to always use cold tap water when preparing formula or cooking food. 

Your Guide to Smart Shopping

Kids hands playing with wooden toy rainbow on blue background

When selecting feeding items such as baby bottles and sippy cups, choose products that are PVC, BPS, and BPA free.

Beware of toys that contain toxic plastic softeners (phthalates), PVC (#3 plastics), and fragrances. When you’re not quite sure, avoid soft plastics that have a strong plastic smell (think rubber ducky). Also, be cautious of imported or antique toys that may contain toxic lead paint.

When buying a toy, look for items that are made from wood or cloth. If a toy can be reused (like a dollhouse or play set), then purchase a higher quality item.

Labels that say “eco-friendly” and “natural” are marketing terms, not legal standards. When buying personal care products for your baby, read the labels and avoid products that contain fragrance, parabens, phthalates, and triclosan.

Concerned your child’s toy may have lead in it? Contact us to conduct a toy test.

For Renters

The spaces we live in can impact our ability to learn and grow properly. Housing can be a contributing factor to health issues like asthma, allergies, lead exposure and other chronic illnesses. Poor housing conditions, chipping and peeling paint, pest infestations and holes in walls can be detrimental to health. WHE educates individuals about environmental risks and provides tools, resources and action steps tenants can take to ensure safe and healthy rental housing while helping create healthy spaces for families to live, learn, grow and play together. 

Renters Guide to Healthy Housing

What every tenant needs to know about their rights to habitability.

Understanding Tenant’s Right to a Habitable Home

As a tenant, you are entitled to live in an environment both safe and habitable. It is important to understand what your rights are and how you can work with your landlord to maintain a healthy and safe space. The implied warranty of habitability applies in all cases where someone is renting a place to live — whether a house, apartment, mobile home or lot in a mobile home park. It applies whether you have a written lease or an oral agreement with a landlord. The warranty is so important, it is in effect whether or not you and the landlord have specifically agreed to it. It cannot be given up (waived).

Under State Law

A landlord must make repairs necessary to keep your home in a safe, sanitary and healthy condition, provided you as a tenant did not cause the problem and provided you are current on your rent when the problem(s) develop.

This includes only serious defects such as:  

  • Leaking roof 
  • Dangerous wiring
  • Broken floor
  • Lack of water
  • Infestations 

If the landlord does not make repairs, the tenant has the right to repair and deduct the cost of repair from future payments to the landlord. 

How to Assert Your Right to a Habitable Home 

How to Assert Your Right to a Habitable Home Try to work the problem out with your landlord in a way that’s fair to both of you. If that doesn’t work, then you should:

Step 1
Tell the landlord about the problem. Tell your landlord, in writing, what the problem is and what you plan to do about it. Keep a copy of the letter to prove that the landlord was notified. Your letter should describe the problem(s), ask the landlord to fix it, and say what you will do if it is not fixed within a reasonable time.
Step 2
Allow your landlord time to repair. The law gives your landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs. The amount of time depends on the seriousness of the defect. The more serious the problem, the sooner it should be fixed. Emergencies such as lack of heat in winter should be fixed very promptly.
Step 3
Collect evidence to show that the landlord did not make repairs. You want to be able to show the judge what the problem was, that you gave the landlord notice, and that the problem was not fixed within a reasonable time. A copy of the letter sent to the landlord can be used as evidence, so can pictures, witnesses, or the report of a housing code inspector. If repairs are needed, it is also helpful to get a contractor, plumber, or electrician to give you an estimate to repair the problem(s), if possible.
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What If the Landlord Does Not Fix the Problem?

Every case is different. Depending on the special facts in your particular case, you may be able to do the following: 

Community Health Workshops/Kits

Geared toward young families, our Healthy Homes program provides free community-based workshops with hands-on activities, programming and Healthy Homes kits. With an emphasis on education and affordable solutions, we offer resources to families on maintaining healthy homes. Topics include lead exposure, mold, radon and green cleaning.  

Free Healthy Homes Workshop Series

Our educational workshops outline different environmental health hazards in the home, how they impact our health and what families can do to help create and maintain a healthy home. The free Healthy Homes Workshop Series focuses on topics including Lead Exposure in the Home, Understanding Asthma and Air Quality, Creating a Healthy Home Environment, Consumer Product Safety, Green Cleaning, Personal Care Products and more!

Water Filters & Water Quality

WHE will distribute free water filters to any household with a child present in the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) service area. We typically distribute water filters during community workshops so residents may have the opportunity to discuss water quality issues.  Brand: ZeroWater Pitcher 

Green Cleaning & Asthma Action Kits

We distribute free asthma-friendly green cleaning buckets to reduce allergens, breathing triggers and safely address pests and mold in the home. Each kit contains (1) 12-quart bucket, (1) 24-ounce empty spray bottle, (1) 16-ounce white vinegar, (1) 1-lb box of baking soda, (1) microfiber cloth and (1) cockroach bait trap. 

Personal Care Product Workshop

We host free community workshops with a hands-on activity to discuss safer alternatives to beauty products and personal care products. Participants will typically be able to make body scrub, bug spray, air freshener and much more.

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Heavy Metal Testing in Household Goods

Within 30 seconds we can test cosmetics, dishware, jewelry, toys, paints and many more commonly used consumer products for the presence of lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium and determine if they are safe for you and your family to continue using or provide advice on what to do if they pose a dangerous  risk.