Metropolitan Health District
Healthy Homes


111 Soledad, Suite 1000
San Antonio, TX 78205


Email Metro Health Visit Metro Health on facebook Follow Metro Health on Twitter

Why do I want a healthy home?
Scientific evidence links housing conditions to health outcomes. Since people spend more than half a day inside homes, the housing environment greatly influences health and well-being.

What are the health effects that can be linked to housing?
Allergies and asthma, carbon monoxide poisoning, lead poisoning, falls, fires, and injuries.

I live in a newer home. Do I need to be concerned?
Yes, every home may have unrecognized health and safety hazards, not only older homes.

How can I make my home healthy?
Follow the Seven Principles of a Healthy Home.

What is lead poisoning?
Lead is a natural element found in our environment. Unlike other elements such as iron or calcium, exposure to lead can be toxic, causing organ damage or, in high levels, death.

How does lead affect a child?
A young, growing child absorbs lead more easily compared to an adult. Even small amounts of lead can cause permanent damage to any organ or system in the body. Developmental delays, behavior problems, and low IQ scores may result from childhood lead poisoning.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Children with lead poisoning often do not show any symptoms and a blood lead test is the only way to confirm if a child has lead poisoning. Nevertheless, high blood lead levels can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, change in appetite, and irritability.

How do children get lead poisoning?
Children are exposed to lead in the environment in three ways:

  1. Eating or mouthing lead-contaminated items
  2. Breathing lead-contaminated dust
  3. An expectant mother can pass lead to her unborn baby through the placenta

What are the sources of lead poisoning?
Common sources of childhood lead poisoning include lead-based paint in buildings built before 1978. Eating paint chips, chewing on painted surfaces—such as windowsills—or breathing in lead dust from a lead-based painted home may cause lead poisoning. Children may also be exposed to lead from a number of other sources. Additional items known to contain lead.

How can I protect my child from lead poisoning?
Read these lead poisoning prevention tips.

  • Ask for a blood lead test at your child’s next checkup. A blood lead test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning.
  • Know the sources of lead and minimize your child’s exposure to them. -Wash your child’s hands and face often, especially before meals and at bedtime.
  • Give your child three healthy meals and two snacks a day.
    Feed your child foods high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C.
  • Do not let your child eat or chew on non-food items—such as paint chips, dirt, windowsills, cribs, and toys (see Consumer Product Safety Commission list of toy recalls).
  • Do not cook or store food in clay or ceramic pottery.
  • Do not give your child home remedies such as Azarcón or Greta from foreign countries.
  • Cover peeling paint and clean up paint chips around the home.
  • Wet mop or wipe floors, windowsills, doors, and doorframes to reduce lead dust on wood and painted surfaces.
  • Wash your child’s toys and pacifier often.
  • Take off shoes before entering your home.
  • If you work with lead, shower and change clothes before interacting with your child and wash work clothes separate from the family’s clothes.

Should my child be tested for lead poisoning?
YES! Blood lead testing is the only way to determine lead poisoning. If possible, every child should have a blood lead test at 12 and 24 months of age and be screened annually until age six.

Where can I have my child tested for lead poisoning?
Contact your child’s health care provider.

Follow these simple steps to make your home healthier.

Keep It Dry – Moisture in homes can lead to mold and pests, which contribute to asthma, coughing, throat irritation, and nasal stuffiness.

  • Fix leaky plumbing or other unwanted sources of water.
  • Keep drip pans in your AC, fridge, and dehumidifier clean and dry
  • Use exhaust fans or open a window while showering or cooking
  • Do not allow standing water to collect

Keep It Clean – Reduces exposure to allergens, lead, pest infestations and pesticides. Use alternative cleaners, without harmful chemicals.

  • Wash mold off and dry completely. Replace moldy ceiling tiles and carpet
  • Vacuum carpets and rugs weekly, preferably with a high-efficiency (HEPA) filter vacuum
  • Regularly dust with a damp cloth
  • Reduce clutter -Wet mop floors weekly
  • Wash all bedding weekly in hot water.
  • Cover mattresses and pillows with dust-proof (allergen impermeable) zippered covers.

Keep It Pest-Free – Research shows that exposure to pests cause asthma episodes in children. Also, rodents can spread infectious diseases and destroy property. Use integrated pest management techniques to control pests.

  • Do not leave food or garbage out. Keep garbage sealed.
  • Store food in airtight containers
  • Clean food crumbs or spilled liquids right away
  • Keep yards trimmed and free from debris
  • Fill in cracks and holes in walls and floors
  • Choose poison baits, boric acid (for cockroaches), or traps over pesticide sprays
  • If sprays are necessary, ventilate the room and stay out of the treated area for hours

Keep It Ventilated –Reduces hazards of moisture, allergens, mold, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, and volatile organic compounds (found in cleaning products and air fresheners.)

  • Professionally inspect heating system annually
  • Replace air filters according to manufacturer’s recommendation. Use high efficiency filters.
  • Never use the stove or oven for heating
  • Properly ventilate the room where a wood- or fuel-burning appliance is used.

Keep It Safe – Common injuries in homes are falls, poisoning, burning, chocking and drowning.

  • Keep small stoves and heaters away from furnishings, flammable materials and foot traffic
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on every level and near bedrooms
  • Clean dryer vents every year to reduce fire risk
  • Set hot water temperature to <120°F
  • Keep passageways well-lit.
  • Post the Texas Poison Center Network number nearby (1.800.222.1222)
  • Prepare and practice an emergency exit plan in case of fire
  • Keep keys to the burglar bars within easy access
  • Keep electrical cords and appliances away from water sources

Keep It Contaminant-Free –Americans spend the majority of their time indoors, especially in winter. Limit chemicals, like pesticides and volatile organic compounds in the home.

  • Minimize use of air fresheners, cosmetics, perfumes, cleaners
  • Carefully follow instructions on hazardous products used in the home and make sure the area is well ventilated before use.
  • Use alternative products, such as fragrance-free detergents, soaps, and lotions.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke in your home or car or around children.
  • Until you can quit, smoke only outside away from windows and doors.
  • Stay away from loose, chipping, or peeling paint.

Keep It Maintained – Poor maintenance poses risks for moisture, pests, lead and safety hazards

  • Properly prepare for renovations or repairs and use lead-safe work practices.
  • Check detectors monthly and replace batteries twice a year when you change your clocks
  • Maintain roof, gutters, and downspouts
  • Promptly repair holes, cracks, and broken windows