Making communities healthy and sustainable through lead and healthy homes services
Isles is a leader in making homes lead safe and healthy and in using our expertise to provide assistance to other organizations in New Jersey and across the U.S. who have the same goals.
We also believe in educating residents on how to make their homes safer from lead and other home health issues (moisture, asthma triggers, fire hazards, etc.). To that end, we offer residents of Mercer County free lead and healthy homes assessments combined with a healthy homes kit and resident education about using greener cleaning products, managing pest without chemicals and reducing asthma triggers.
Isles is also committed to advocating for policies that can greatly accelerate New Jersey’s ability to rid homes of lead, once and for all. Policies such as requiring landlords or sellers to provide a lead safe certificate at rental or sale, or making sure that schools are aware of children who might be affected by lead by requiring a child’s lead health record at school entry.
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Learn more about Virtual Home Health Assessments and Repairs.
Is Your Home Lead Safe And Healthy?
If your house or apartment was built before 1978, you may have lead paint in your home or other conditions that might affect the health of your family. Lead-based paint, even if hidden under layers of newer lead-free paint, can break down because of age, poor maintenance, or household repairs. Lead can also be found in your water from lead or galvanized pipes, soil, and even in jewelry, toys, and older pottery.
Lead in water has gotten a lot of attention lately, but dust from lead paint can be even more dangerous to young children. 80% or more of lead poisoning is caused by lead paint.
No amount of lead is safe for children under 6. It can cause severe attention, behavior, and learning problems. Lead poisoning is a life-long issue, but lead poisoning is preventable. The first step in protecting your children from lead poisoning is to have your home tested for lead.
Isles wants to test your home’s water and paint for lead at no cost. We’ll also do a room by room assessment of your home to determine if there are other indoor health hazards and will then help you remove those hazards.
See our videos describing the principles of a healthy home.
How We Test
Isles’ Community Health Workers will set up an appointment and come to your home to:
- Test for lead in your water and painted surfaces, usually windows and doors.
- Test for other indoor issues that might be making asthma or other health conditions worse
- Give you tips on how to keep your home lead safe and healthy
- Give you a free gift bag of products to help you keep your home safe, healthy and pest free.
- If we find lead in your home, we can immediately enroll you in a program to provide repairs to address the lead paint issues for free. If lead is found in your soil or water, we will provide you with information to help you keep your family safe. After the assessment, you could qualify for up to $12,000 in home repairs.
Many of New Jersey’s most vulnerable families, typically those of low-income residing in our oldest cities, struggle with health issues, housing instability, and high energy bills which make it difficult for them to succeed.
Children miss school due to asthma, and their parents miss work to take care of them. Lead poisoning puts children at risk for academic failure and criminal activity and adults at higher risk for certain health conditions. The elderly struggle with trip-and-fall hazards that can result in serious injuries, often sending them to the hospital or a long-term care facility. Energy costs are disproportionately high for these families. This often leaves people with no choice but to live in uncomfortable circumstances.
New Jersey logs 4,500 new cases of childhood lead poisoning each year and about 225,000 young kids in New Jersey have been poisoned by lead since 2000. While we know lead is in water in many parts of the state, but the way most children get poisoned by lead (about 80% of the time) is from the dust from lead paint left to chip, flake and turn to silent, dangerous dust. But it isn’t invisible to the brains of children. It damages the neurons, even at a very low level in the blood, causing learning, memory, behavioral and health problems. The effects of this powerful neurotoxin on a child’s cognitive and behavioral development are far reaching, and costly.
In Trenton, for example, about 50% of children in Trenton Schools have a level of lead in their blood that affects their learning and behavior. Lead dramatically lowers math and reading scores. Children with lead in their blood are seven times more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system, as lead severely damages the part of the brain that controls impulse and behavior.
Lead poisoning of children creates a lifelong legacy for both families and the larger society. Each child affected by lead costs taxpayers up to $32,000 per year in special education, criminal justice and health care costs. That’s a lot, given how easy and cost effective it is to reduce or eliminate the issue.
Substandard housing–housing that is plagued by leaky roofs, broken windows, peeling paint, debris, vermin and injury causing conditions–leads to negative health effects and high social and economic costs for communities, families, and especially children. Health and safety issues from substandard housing disproportionately affect residents who live in older, urban communities. Finding the resources to pay for their correction often poses a financial challenge.
Substandard housing creates the conditions for lead poisoning and exacerbates other issues for communities. According to a report published by the University of California Berkeley Health Impact Group, substandard housing is associated with increased risk of disease, crime, social isolation, and decreased mental health. Physical deterioration is a contributing factor to substandard housing. A house might, for example, need a new roof. When it rains, the roof might cave in or leak, causing the house to flood or the residents to be injured. This, in turn, creates further hazards if the house is flooded or falling apart. Water damage can also unleash lead that has been safely encapsulated in paint. Some cases of substandard housing are not so visible. Outdated or dangerous electrical systems, rusting or loose pipes, and gas leaks can all pose significant safety hazards that might go unnoticed until an accident happens.
In urban areas, older homes and buildings often lack even the first generation of energy efficiency improvements. As a result, energy costs are extremely high for those who can least afford it. Excessively high utility bills are now the second greatest cause of homelessness. In New Jersey, home energy consumption and household energy expenditures are among the highest in the country. Nearly half of the energy consumed is used to keep families warm. Although New Jersey households consume less electricity on average than the national average household, their bills are higher due to high electricity rates set by the State of New Jersey.
Isles and others across the country have explored new ways to assess and address the lead, energy and home health issues faced by families living in older housing. Our integrated approaches do more than improve health and education — they create jobs, save energy, prevent abandonment and bring other benefits at a relatively low cost.
Why assess homes for lead and health?
The common thread running through the challenges listed above is the condition of our homes; the places we expect to be comfortable and safe. In lower income and older communities, housing problems too often become health problems.
Our homes are the most important setting when it comes to our health. Americans spend about 70% of their time in their homes, yet nationwide, nearly 6 million families live in housing that rival conditions in developing countries: broken heating and plumbing, holes in walls and windows, roach and rodent infestations, falling plaster, crumbling foundations, and leaking roofs.
In northern New Jersey alone, 56,000 housing units are severely distressed, putting families at an increased risk of a range of health issues, including lead poisoning, asthma, physical injuries, depression, allergic reactions, cancer, and even death – influencing the long-term well-being and economic success of New Jersey’s residents.
Isles believes that significant change in child and family health can come from taking comprehensive approach and focusing on the health risks linked to housing. We see tackling housing quality through both upstream (policy change) and downstream (innovative community-based housing repair programs) as a way to spur statewide change.
Through this approach, community-based organizations and others can impact thousands of lives over the next few years by tackling issues like lead, asthma, other indoor health hazards, and energy efficiency.Isles is systemically scaling up our lead and healthy homes work. To achieve the scale necessary to meet our goal of creating a lead-safe Trenton by 2025, Isles is pursuing an integrated approach that includes training more contractors and organizations; retrofitting homes utilizing funds from private sources; advocating to change policy and regulations; and educating the public.
Weatherized or provided heating system repairs or replacement to 45 low-income residents.
Successfully advocated for the passage of the new Lead Safe Certificate Bill, signed into law July 2021.