Chapter 3
Health and Sanitary Elements of A Housing Inspection


The Table of Contents

I.  Background Factors
II.  Major Health and Sanitary Factors
III.  Inspection Procedures

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I.   Background Factors

Benjamin Franklin said "Sir I respectfully submit that we can give advice but we cannot give conduct."

In dealing with public we must give to our fullest capacity. Sometimes what we believe are frustrations peculiar to inspectors of housing are actually the same frustrations experienced by inspectors in many other fields. In fielding with the public, it is our duty to perform officially, teach where possible, and use the big stick only when necessary. Our manner must be forth-right and that of a tutored professional. A housing inspector is the key person in a local housing hygiene program since he is the local representative dealing with the grass roots problems. Unless the inspector is a sanitarian, he is not prepared or expected to function as a sanitarian. There must, however, be a rapport between the housing inspector and the sanitarian to achieve the united action that will result in the achievement of greater health, safety, and welfare of the community. This is brought about by joint and supporting actions of the housing inspector brings him into contact with health problems more ofter than the work of the average sanitarian does. If both parties wish to do their respective jobs well, then they should develop an arrangement of mutual support and assistance.

II.   Major Health and Sanitary Factors

A comprehensive housing ordinance or code includes minimum requirements for adequate heat, light, ventilation, sanitation, space, and occupancy. Various studies have provided evidence of the relaitionship between unsanitary conditions, overcrowding, inadequate heat, light, and ventilation and health problems such as the tranmission of various diseases and infections. Studies to evaluate the effects of conditions within man's living environment upon his mental health and emotional stability are being undertaken by the U.S. Public Health Service. Within all comprehensive housing ordinances, there are appropriate standards for the important health and sanitation factors.

A  Heat

Minumum inside heating temperatures vary little throughout the country except for the marked difference between the localities with very mild or very cold climates. Some state and local housing codes have set 70F as the minimum standard. They vary, however, on the outside temperature that must prevail before the inside statdard of 70F must be met. The 1975 "APHA-CDC Recommended Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Ordinance," for example, required it to be maintained under ordianry minimum winter conditions. Of necessity, therefore, you must be guided by your local code for quantitative standards. If there are no quantitative standards in your local code, Table No. 1 in Chapter 26 of the "American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Handbook of Fundamentals", gives minimum design temperatures for different areas of the country under winter conditions. The publication is readily available from most public libraries.

The "APHA-CDC Recommended Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Ordinance" states that a temperature of at least 68F at a distance of 36 inches above the floor level should exist. ASHRAE states that the temperature should be measured at the breathing line 5 feet above the floor or at the seating level 30 inches above the floor in a location where the temperature-sensing device is not exposed to a condition of abnormal heat gain or heat loss. Local code requirements should, however, prevail. If the local code does not give a specific statement, any of the previously mentioned methods may be used, but every housing inspector in the community should measure the temperature the same way.

B  Thermal Environment

One of the basic requirements in healthful housing is maintenence of a thermal environment that will avoid undue heat loss from the human body. Heat loss results in lowered resistance, particularly to respitory tract infections, and to some extent all other infections.

Room temperatures vary considerably from floor to ceiling. Since hot air rises, the coolest temperature will be found near the floor and the warmest near the ceiling. The temperature of 70F maintained near the ceiling might be far from adequate for protection required. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, the 1975 APHA-CDC Recommended Ordinance specifies that temperature measurements for the determination of compliance with requirements be made at a level approximately 36 inches from the floor. This ensures that children, even the younger children who are most active, are in an area where the temperature is sufficiently warm to give them the protection they need. It also assures the less active adults a location in an area where the temperatures are at a desirable level.

C  Natural Light

Most municipalities require at least one window or skylight facing directly to the outdoors for every habitable room. They are also in general agreement that this window area or skylight area be 10% of the total floor area of the room. Note here that a window located less than 3 feet from an outside wall or other structure that extends above the ceiling level of the room is not deemed to face directly to the outdoors. A window that faces directly into a completely enclosed court is counted as facing directly to the outdoors as long as the court is greater than 3 feet in its least dimensions.

Daylight should be used as fully as possible in all buildings no matter how adequate other forms of light may be. Satisfactory natural illumination depends upon the intensity of daylight or sky brightness and the amount, distribution, and quality of this light in a room. Natural light is particularly important in low-income housing where artificial lighting will be held to a minimum. Light is important in showing up dirt and thus leads to more cleanliness within the home. The bactericidal effect of light transmitted through glass is questionable. The bright, naturally lit room is, however, certainly more conductive to healthy mental attitudes than a dim. dark room lit only by artificial sources.

In different parts of the country different standards of window size are possible. For instance in a sunny climate, such as that found in the southwestern desert. a smaller window area would supply adequate illumination and may be desirable to prevent excessive glare in a room. In a climate in the northern part of the country. however 10% of the floor area should be a minimum for window area in consideration of the reduced amount of sunlight present. especially in the winter time.

The lighting requirements shall be deemed satisfactory if every habitable room has one window facing directly to the outdoors and the total window area in each habitable room is at least 10% of the floor area of that room. In computing window areas no deduction is made for sashes and trim used to hold the glass panes in place. If a skylight type of window on the ceiling of the habitable room serves as the only window in the room, the area of the horizontal projection of the skylight should also be at least 10% of the total floor area of the room. In a room with both a window and a skylight the total area of both should be at least 10% of the floor area.

D  Artificial Light

It is a common requirement that every habitable room have two separate floor- or wall-type convenience outlets or else one such convenience outlet and one supplied ceiling-type electrical light fixture. It is also required that public halls and stairways be sufficiently lighted at all times in such a manner as to allow safe travel back and forth. The 1975 APHA-CDC Recommended Ordinance states that every habitable room and nonhabitable room used for food preparation shall have two wall-type duplex electric convenience outlets or one such duplex convenience outlet and one supplied wall or ceiling-type electric light fixture. No duplex outlet shall serve more than two fixtures or appliances.

Every water closet compartment, bathroom, kitchen or kitchenette, laundry room, furnace room, and public hall shall contain at least one supplied ceiling or wall-type electric light fixture. Convenient switches or equivalent devices for turning on one light for each room or passageway shall be located so as to permit the area ahead to be lighted.

Every public hall and stairway in a multiple dwelling shall be adequately lighted by natural or electric light or both at all times so as to provide in all parts at least 10 foot candles of light at the tread or floor level. If the structure contains not more than two dwelling units this light may be controlled by a switch and be turned on when needed instead of being turned on full time.

Electricity is as essential to the modern home as heating or ventilation. It has long replaced gas kerosene. and other utilities for lighting because it is more economical and, when properly used, safer. It has, probably more than any other single item, made practical the use of labor-saving devices for household tasks and thereby promoted the cleanliness of both the dwelling and the person.

Since the mid-1930's, electricity has been provided even to the most remote areas. Individual electrical generating units are available for use in places where industry or government has not provided electricity to the homeowner. Only the most backward and most primitive areas of this country are today without service of this utility. Certainly, all metropolitan areas have electricity, and there is no reason why this servant of mankind should not be available in the home.

The 1975 "APHA-CDC Recommended Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Ordinance" allows a dwelling that is located more than 300 feet from the nearest electrical source to be without this service; however, there are very few dwellings left in the populated areas of this country that do not have, within 300 feet, the lines of the local electric utility.

Although electricity is a valuable servant, it can also be a severe safety hazard. Among the most common faults in providing electrical service is the furnishing of inadequate outlets. This results in overloading of the lines, causing possible overheating of wires and fixtures and subsequent fire hazards. Improperly installed facilities and outlets furnish a fire hazard, as well as a safety hazard, particularly to small children.

When inadequate outlets are provided there is a tendency, particularly among the poorly educated, to connect many high-wattage items such as toasters, irons, televisions, and other similar items to a single outlet.

Kitchen, living rooms, and rooming units are most likely to contain several electrical appliances in addition to the lighting fixtures. This is not necessarily true in toilet rooms, laundry rooms, furnace rooms, and public hallways. It is very important therefore, that rooms most likely to have a large number of appliances be required to have an adequate number of outlets in order to prevent overloading of circuits and installation of amateurish and possibly hazardous extension wiring.

E  Ventilation

The ordinance requirement for the total openable window area in every habitable room is 45 percent of the minimum window area except where an approved mechanical means of ventilation is installed.

Adequate ventilation is essential in meeting many of the fundamental needs in housing. Among these are the maintenance of a thermal environment that will permit adequate heat loss from the human body, provision of an atmosphere of reasonable chemical purity, and provision of possibilities for esthetic satisfaction in the home and its surroundings.

The factors controlling heat loss in the body are air temperature, mean radiant temperature of surrounding surfaces, relative humidity, and air movement. It is particularly important that cool, moving air be made available in sleeping rooms since the impact of cool air is of great value in promoting healthful sleep. Moreover, odors given off by the body exert a definitely harmful influence on appetite and therefore upon health. There can be no doubt that the well-ventilated home, like the well illuminated home, is more conducive to healthful mental attitudes than a poorly ventilated or poorly illuminated home.

Every bathroom and toilet room should comply with the housing ordinance's light and ventilation requirements for habitable rooms except that windows or skylights should not be required if the ventilation system is adequate. Many codes state that mechanical means must provide at least two to six changes of air per hour.

As has been previously mentioned, light promotes cleanliness. This is particularly important in bathrooms and toilet rooms, where cleanliness is essential to sanitation and proper attitudes are essential to cleanliness. Ventilation is also necessary in these rooms because they are subject to a high concentration of body odors and humidity. Since these rooms are frequently located, for economical construction reasons, within the inner part of the structure and away from the exterior walls, windows and skylights are not always practical. The provision of artificial light sources and mechanical ventilation will, therefore, accomplish the basic purposes of light and ventilation requirements and at the same time meet practical standards of construction .

F  Space and Occupancy

The maximum density of occupancy for any dwelling unit has been set by the APHA-CDC Ordinance at 150 square feet of total habitable room area for the first occupant and 100 square feet of floor space for every additional occupant, with the floor space calculated on the basis of total habitable room area. The ordinance further requires that the total number of persons allowed may not be more than twice the number of habitable rooms in the dwelling unit.

If more than one family plus two occupants unrelated to the families, not including guests or domestic employees, are to occupy a dwelling unit, a permit for a rooming house must be granted by the appropriate local authority.

The ceiling height of any habitable room is set at a minimum of 7 feet except in rooms under a sloping ceiling. In those instances at least one half of the floor area must have a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet. The floor area located under the portion of the room where the ceiling height is less than 5 feet may not be used in computing total floor area of the room when the maximum permissible ccupancy is being determined.

Space located up to 4 feet below the grade of the ground may not be used as a habitable room unless approved by the appropriate authority in writing.

In dwelling units of two or more rooms, each sleeping room must contain at least 70 square feet of floor space for the first occupant, and at least 50 square feet of floor space for each additional occupant .

Dwellings or dwelling units containing two or more sleeping rooms must have a room arrangement that permits access to the bathroom or water closet without passage through another sleeping room.

Other space requirements state that each dwelling unit shall have at least 4 square feet of floor-to-ceiling-height closet space for the personal effects of each permissible occupant. If this space is lacking, in whole or in part, an amount of square footage equal to the space deficiency shall be subtracted from the computed area of habitable room space used in determining permissible occupancy.

Overcrowding in housing is one of the greatest contributing factors in the transmission of diseases, particularly those of the respiratory tract. In addition, crowding violates one of the basic maxims of healthful housing-the need for privacy of the individual. Privacy in the home and privacy in the use of sleeping bath, and toilet rooms dictate that the user must be able to use these facilities without violating the privacy of another person or without having his privacy violated by another. Crowding makes proper cleansing and maintenance difficult and less likely to be done.

Rooms, to be considered habitable, must be of a size sufficient for use by normal-size people. Any room in which half the total floor area is usable only with difficulty, in which the ceiling is too low, or in which a person has problems moving around can hardly be considered habitable.

The use of below-grade space as habitable rooms in dwelling units is allowed basically to permit use of the so-called English Basement and Garden Apartment, which would otherwise meet the code requirements, since it conforms to the other provisions of the code for habitable rooms. Obviously, any room that is extremely damp, dark, and poorly ventilated would not be conducive to healthful occupancy by any human being.

G  Sanitation in the Control of Arthropods and Rodents

The presence of vectors such as arthropods (flies, mosquitoes, fleas, cockroaches, lice, mites, ticks, and bedbugs) and rodents (rats and mice) in a house and its premises result from neglect of basic responsibilities for cleanliness. Rodents and arthropods are vectors of disease and cause injury to humans. In many cases, rats and mice, or insects and other arthropods may not necessarily pose an immediate disease threat. They are often present in such numbers or in such places as to limit the enjoyment and utilization of our environment. In this sense, they are pests disturbing the well-being of man and inspection and control programs are justified on this basis alone. Food, harborage, and water, which are life essentials for arthropods and rodents, occur frequently in and around all types of buildings whenever these vectors prevail. Their numbers increase rapidly as standards of cleanliness and maintenance decline. Substandard residential housing and commercial establishments produce and maintain greater and more widespread vector populations than well kept, clean residential and commercial areas. Lack of knowledge, carelessness, and indifference are usually the basic reasons for such conditions.

Although pesticides (insecticides and rodenticides) may produce temporary pest reduction, only permanent techniques such as sanitation and pest proofing bring about long-term control. Sanitation includes storage, collection, and disposal of refuse, together with premises maintenance and the proper storage of products and materials. It is important that all building, housing, and other related codes and ordinances include adequate provisions for control of pests and correction of conditions conducive to their proliferation. When a building, structure, or dwelling becomes infested, inspection and control measures are required. Inspection reports should list violations found and call for initial extermination and continued control. The causative conditions for the presence of pests must also be corrected by the responsible Persons.

The housing inspector should be able to identify correctly the various arthropods and rodents that infest a house and its premises. It is important to know the habits and characteristics of common household pests and be able to inform the public about the importance of their elimination and control .

  1.  Domestic Rats and Mice

    Rodent problems are common to most urban areas in the United States and most severe in areas of substandard housing and urban blight.

    Rats and mice are responsible for spread of a number of diseases, either directly, as by contamination of human food with their urine or feces, or indirectly by way of fleas and mites. The more common rodent-borne diseases are rat-bite fever, leptrospirosis, salmonellosis, trichinosis, murine typhus fever, and plague. Rickettsialpox is transmitted from the house mouse to man by the bite of the mouse mite. Rat bite, a public health problem, is associated with heavy urbanization, occurring primarily in lower economic areas exhibiting substandard housing, crowding, and poor sanitation. Rats consume or contaminate large quantities of food and feed, and destroy other property, as when they cause fires by gnawing the insulation from electric wires.

    The Norway rat is the most common rat found in the United States and is closely associated with man and buildings and is most dependent on him. This rat weighs 16 or more ounces, is heavy-set with blunt muzzle has small close set ears, and its tail is shorter than body and head combined. Its fur is coarse, generally reddish brown to grayish brown.

    The house mouse is the smallest of domestic rodents, weighing one half to three fourths in ounces, with small slender body, moderately large prominent ears, and semi-naked tail about as long as the body and head combined. Its fur is dusty gray.

    Control of rats and mice requires (a) sanitation to eliminate their food and harborage, (b) effective rodent proofing, and (c) efficient supplemental killing programs.

    Information about habits and characteristics of rodents and inspection and control techniques may be found in the following publications of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, Center for Disease Control: "Control of Domestic Rats and Mice," "Biological Factors in Domestic Rodent Control," "Rodent-borne Disease Control Through Rodent Stoppage," "Urban Rat Surveys," and the "APHA-CDC Recommended Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Ordinance ."

  2.  Arthropods

    The housing inspector should be able to identify correctly arthropods that are common household pests. It is also important for him to recognize these pests so that he can give the owner or occupant accurate instructions on appropriate control measures. Such household pests include:

a   Fleas-Unlike most blood-sucking insects, fleas feed at frequent intervals. They do not remain on one host, but feed temporarily, and transfer to several other hosts which may be of entirely different species. The dog flea will feed on man as well as on dogs and cats. For this reason, and the fact that fleas insert their mouth parts to suck blood, they are particularly prone to transmit pathogenic organisms. The frequent biting is due to the fact that fleas are very easily disturbed while feeding and seldom complete a meal at one time. Some species of fleas are involved in the transmission of plague, endemic typhyus, salmonella typhimurium, and undulant fever. In addition, fleas are intermediate hosts of helminths such as dog tapeworm and dwarf tapeworm.

b   Fly - The house fly and many of its relatives are common agents in the mechanical transmission of certain infections which are often grouped under the term, "fly-borne diseases." The mouth parts, the numerous body spines, and the sticky pads on the feet have been found to carry a large number of different pathogens causing human disease. Some of these pathogens may pass unaltered through the digestive tract and may remain viable in the feces Among the pathogens carried mechanically by the house fly are those causing typhoid fever, cholera, bacillary and amebic dysentery, tuberculosis, tetanus, and anthrax.

From the disease viewpoint, it should be emphasized that from feeding on excrement, sputum, open sores, or putrefying matter, the flies may quickly pass to food and milk, to mucous membranes or to uncontaminated wounds. It is these habits that make this fly and related forms such efficient mechanical vectors of disease.

When feeding, the fly frequently moistens substances with a "vomit drop" which is regurgitated from the crop. This vomit drop may be teeming with typhoid and cholera bacilli, or with organisms causing amebic or bacillary dysentery which are thus transferred to food and milk.

c   Bedbugs-A heavily infested house has a distinctive odor. Some people are very sensitive to bedbug bites, while others are hardly aware of them. This insect has not been incriminated in the transmission of any communicable disease. Bedbugs may cause nervous disorders in sensitive people, and may contribute to the ill health of both children and adults. Although bedbugs will feed readily on poultry, mice, rats, and other animals, the preferred host is man.

d   Cockroach - Cockroaches have become well adjusted to living with man. They harbor in the cracks and crevices provided by human building methods. They subsist on the bits of food man scatters where he lives or travels. Cockroaches have been reported nibbling on the eyelashes, fingernails, and toenails of sleeping children. They impart an unsavory odor and taste into food they infest. They carry the organisms causing enteric diseases (diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, food poisoning) from sewers and garbage cans to the food of man and have been found naturally infected with many other pathogens.

(1)   American Cockroach - This roach is capable of flights of a gliding nature. It is found in alleyways, yards, sewerage systems, and trees. It frequently enters buildings under doorways. It prefers warm resting places such as steam tunnels and basements during the winter months, and causes damage to book bindings, manuscripts, clothing, glossy paper with starch sizing, and labels from bottles. It is often trapped in vessels containing beer, syrup, or sweetened drinks. It is reddish to dark brown in color. The adults are about 1 to 2 inches long.

(2)   Australian Cockroach - is reddish to dark brown with yellow markings and streaks. The adult is about 1 inch long. They are usually found in warm damp places in or out of doors.

(3)   Brown-Banded Cockroach - is yellowish or reddish brown in color and the fertile eggs often show greenish through the walls. It is difficult to control because it does not confine its activities to the kitchen, bathroom, and pantry, but is found throughout the house.

(4)  German Cockroach - is probably the most common cockroach found in restaurants. It is sometimes called the "croton bug." This pest enters the home with bottled drinks, potatoes, onions, other foods, and furniture.

e  Ticks-All ticks are parasitic during some period of their lives. They are annoying pests, and in addition, they are transmitters of the causative agents of many diseases. Their bites are irritating, and often when they are removed forcibly, the mouth parts remain in the skin, resulting in infection causing ulceration or septicemia. Ticks are responsible for transmitting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

f  Mites - As a group these arachnids are free living, but many are parasitic. The parasitic forms produce a mild to severe dermatitis, often followed by allergic reactions. Some mites are the etiological agents of mange and scabies of man and animals.

g  Lice - Lice do not leave the host or host's clothing voluntarily but only when they are accidentally dislodged. They are mainly disseminated by physical contact with infested persons or their clothing. The bite of the head and body louse provokes rosy swellings and, coupled with the ensuing scratching, produces the characteristic scarring and bronzing of the skin referred to as "vagabond's disease."

Murine typhus can be transmitted from man to man by the body louse.

h  Mosquito - Mosquitoes are known transmitters of encephalitis, malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other diseases. Of all the insects that jeopardize the health of man, mosquitoes rank first. Not only do they transmit disease, but they occur in such numbers that they cause great annoyance. Pest mosquitoes affect the comfort and efficiency of man through severe annoyance, itching bites, loss of sleep, and nervousness.

Termites - Termites are a key factor in the deterioration of housing in many parts of the United States as well as elsewhere in the world. Housing quality, one of the basic factors in public health, is often used as a general index of community health. For these reasons, public health workers should have a general knowledge of these pests.


Termites may be grouped into three types based upon the type of damage they do:

(1) wet wood termites damage living trees and are of relatively minor importance in most areas;

(2)dry wood termites establish colonies in cured wood and, while rare, may be a problem in museums and storage warehouses;

(3)subterranean termites attack wood from colonies established in the soil and are the ones of the greatest economic importance. These are very sensitive to moisture conditions; and, although they may feed on wood. they must leave it and return to the soil every few hours for moisture. Ordinarily they attack only wood that is in contact with the soil, but they can build cellulose tunnels through which they can climb to attack wood above ground level.


It is often difficult to assess the extent of termite damage or to ascertain that complete control has been achieved.

Information about these pests and inspection and control techniques may be found in the following U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service, Center for Disease Control publications: "Introduction to Arthropods of Public Health Importance," "Sanitation in the Control of Insects and Rodents of Public Health Importance," "Household and Stored-food Insects of Public Health Importance and Their Control."

H.  Childhood Lead Poisoning and Housing Inspection

Childhood lead poisoning is a disease of the environment-including the housing environment. The major lead source for children is lead contained in paint. In the past, paint containing significant amounts of lead was used extensively on interiors of dwelling units. Lead is still used in exterior paint in many sections of the country. As these dwelling units deteriorate and fall into disrepair, the leaded paint peels, flakes, and chips off of many painted surfaces. The paint is then accessible to small children who will chew and mouth non-food items such as window sills, door facings, and paint chips.

If a child is identified with undue lead absorption, the housing inspector's role in the prevention of lead poisoning is identifying the most probable lead hazard in that child's environment. This hazard is often leaded paint. The housing inspector must educate the occupants to this danger and ensure that appropriate hazard reduction occurs.

Childhood lead poisoning from ingestion of leaded paint is a disease whose eradication could be accomplished by removing its cause - leaded paint. There are, however, over 30 million dwelling units in the United States containing lead-based paint.

  1.   Determination of Lead in the Housing Environment

    The method of choice for identification of lead paint hazards in the field is the portable x-ray fluorescence analyzer. These instruments have: gained wide acceptance for making quantitative measurements quickly and reliably on painted surfaces for lead content down to a level of 0.5 mg/cm2. While this level may be hazardous if ingested repeatedly, a lower level lead in paint is difficult to identify because of limits on instrument technology applicable to field use. Developmental work is being carried out which will allow quantitative measurement of levels below 0.5 mg/cm2.

    As a supplement to x-ray fluorescent determinations, paint scrapings and loose chips may be collected for chemical analysis in the laboratory. In sample collection, it is important to obtain only paint for an accurate analysis.

    Interpreting values obtained by x-ray fluorescence and wet chemistry on the same sample is difficult since the two methods are not directly comparable. The x-ray fluorescence instruments measure the total amount of lead present per unit area while the chemical test measures the amount of lead by weight of the sample tested. If even a small amount of underlying substrate is present in the sample, the chemical test will give false low values.

    2  Initiating Action

    Decisions concerning actions to be taken to control the sources of lead available to children must be in accordance with appropriate ordinances and codes. Highest priority should be given to eliminating paint hazards where children with undue lead absorption [Footnote #1] reside or frequently visit. The availability and condition of the painted surfaces, and the amount of lead contained in the paint are also primary reasons for action.

    3  Hazard Abatement Techniques

    Hazard abatement activities may vary with the condition of the dwelling. Sometimes complete renovation is necessary while in other circumstances the occupant may be able to minimize the hazard with simple methods. Wire brushing loose paints from the walls and sweeping up paint chips from the floor may be all that is necessary to prevent further accumulation of lead in a child with a low level of lead absorption.

    If the lead hazard requires major action, two alternative approaches are available. The leaded paint can be removed or a protective barrier can be placed over the leaded paint.

    Paint Removal


    There are several methods of paint removal in current use:

    These include:
    (1)  Chemical paint removers
    (2)  Sanding and scraping
    (3)  Heating to soften
    (4)  Combination of above


    When using any of the above-procedures, care must be exercised to ensure that workmen use approved protective equipment and/or adequate ventilation to prevent inhaling lead dust or vapors. Children and other household members must also be protected or removed from exposure. Toxic lead fumes occurring when paint is overheated are especially dangerous. Proper attention must be given to disposal of leaded paint removed from the dwelling.

    Principles of Shielding


    The basic principle of shielding is to isolate leaded surfaces so that a child cannot get to those surfaces. There are seven characteristics of an ideal shielding material:

    1. Scrape-proof and puncture-proof by a child.

    2. vermin-proof.

    3. relatively fire resistant or have a high ignition temperature.

    4. not release toxic or noxious gases or vapors at high temperatures or upon ignition.

    5. not place any appreciable additional load or stress on the existing structure of the building.

    6. easy to install with reasonable installation costs (materials and labor).

    7. have a low maintenance cost.


    Flat Surface Covering Materials

    Five different flat surface covering materials have been used in shielding leaded surfaces. These materials include the following:


    1. gypsum board-this material creates a new wall in front of the old; the installation is relatively expensive and requires the use of skilled labor.

    2. fiberglas wall covering materials - this material requires removal of all loose paint and plaster before application; some patching of wall surface may be necessary; material comes in thin sheets of approximately 40 inches in width; an adhesive compound is needed.

    3. paper wall covering materials - usually made of heavy kraft paper which is easy to paint over.

    4. vinyl coat sheeting - must be applied with a special adhesive; is the least combustible of the plastic materials which may be used for this purpose, but upon ignition emits hydrochloric acid fumes and vapors.

    5. plywood and hardwood-this material is nailed directly to the wall studs; is relatively easy to install.


    Liquid Covering Materials

    Some of the above listed materials can be applied only to flat surfaces. In order to find a material which will provide a shield over both flat and curved surfaces, several liquid covering materials have been used, but to date only a limited degree of success has been obtained. The two liquid covering materials which have some use as a shield of leaded surfaces are as follows:

    (1)  urethane-based paint - this material requires the removal of all loose paint and plaster before application; repeated applications may be needed; new surface may peel if old base paint is not removed; should be considered only as a temporary or short-term method, e.g., may be ideal in building scheduled for demolition within a few years.

    (2)  pigmented masonry conditioner-this material requires the prior removal of all flaking, peeling, and scaling paint: material has a tung oil base which permits penetration into the base wall material and provides effective shielding; several coats are needed to obtain sufficient bonding of the surface material.

    I  Sanitation: Water Supply and Temperature

    Some housing codes specify only that dwelling units have hot and cold water supply at all times. Other codes, however, specify a minimum rate of flow for hot and cold water of 1 gallon per minute from each fixture. The temperature generally requested and accepted for hot water is a minimum of 120F at the outlet.

    J  Sanitation: Septic Tanks

    There are 17 million people in the United States who use septic tanks as a means of sewage disposal. It is important, therefore, for an inspector of housing to have a basic understanding of their construction and use.

    Before a septic tank can be installed it must be determined that there is a correct location for a disposal field. The best guide to future performance is carefully prepared soil maps together with the experience with each soil in a region. In the absence of such maps percolation tests provide some guidance.

    The conventional septic tank sewage and disposal system consists of two main parts-a septic tank and an absorption field or seepage pit. The tank settles, stores, and digests the solids (sludge and scum). As sewage enters the tank, the heavier solids settle to the bottom and become sludge, and the lighter particles, including grease, rise to the top of the liquid and remain as scum. The organic matter contained in both sludge and scum is decomposed by action of anaerobic bacteria (the type of bacteria that thrive in absence of air). These bacteria gain their life-processing oxygen by reducing complex organic substances. Gases are vented to atmosphere, and liquids are discharged to the disposal field.

    Digestive action by the bacteria takes time, and so the tank must be of sufficient capacity to store solids for the required time. As raw sewage enters the tank, an equal amount of liquid effluent is discharged so that the liquid level remains fairly constant. The tank inlet has a baffle to divert the incoming sewage downward. An outlet baffle or pipe fitting retains solids but allows discharge of liquid to the absorption or disposal field. Recommended retention period of the liquid ranges from 8 to 48 hours. In normal operation, scum and sludge must be removed from the tank by mechanical means.

    Public Health Service research has shown that two or more solids retention compartment tanks are more efficient than one. Rectangular compartment tanks are as good as any, and change in tank shapes to oval, or others offers no special advantages. The flow from the septic tank goes into the absorption field to allow liquid to be dissipated in the soil.

    K  Sanitation: Drainage

    The dangers of puddles and pools of stagnant water can be great depending on the location, the depth, and amount of the stagnant water. Stagnant water, whether it be on the ground or in receptacles such as cans, bottles, or rubber tires, can be a major health hazard in any area of the country. Mosquitoes use these pools as breeding grounds. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, and the eggs hatch into a larval stage. The larvae later change to a pupal stage and remain in the water-filled container until they change into adult mosquitoes and begin the fourth stage of their life cycle. It is in this fourth or adult stage that mosquitoes can carry diseases to man. The elimination of ponds, puddles, and other sources of stagnant water is the best way of eliminating mosquito hazards. If the pond or pool is large enough, it can also be a safety hazard for small children who may stumble into the water and drown.

    Poor drainage may create another hazard if electricity is nearby. The obvious danger of being electrocuted exists when water and electricity are both present. The inspector should always look for evidence of water near the main fuse box in the house and for broken or frayed electrical wires in the kitchen, bathroom, water closet compartment, or laundry room.

    Excessive dampness caused by puddles and other small bodies of stagnant water or leaking plumbing fixtures can cause structural damage to a house. The water itself can cause rotting of main structural members or can offer the campground needed by subterranean termites for their attack on wooden structures.

    L  Sanitation: Rubbish and Garbage Storage

    Every occupant of a dwelling must maintain the part of the dwelling unit that he occupies and controls. The storage and disposal of rubbish and garbage in a safe and sanitary manner is considered the responsibility of the occupant insofar as the garbage and trash is generated in his portion of the structure. It is the owner's responsibility to see that arrangements are made by the tenant for the adequate removal of this refuse.

    In a structure containing three or more dwelling units it is also the owner's responsibility to supply containers for the storage of refuse and to make provisions for its safe and sanitary removal as often as is necessary to maintain a sanitary structure.

    In the case of a single- or two-family dwelling, it shall be the responsibility of the occupant to furnish facilities or containers. This does not preclude any agreement, whether written or oral, between owner and occupant for other types of disposal practices; however, any other type of disposal practice must be safe and sanitary. As previously stated, avoiding the attraction of insects and rodents is essential to the public health. Refuse furnishes food and harboring places for rodents and tends to attract them to areas where they have not previously been present. The same is true of insects. The requirement that the proper facilities for the storage of rubbish be provided is to fix responsibility for maintenance and use of these facilities with a particular party whether it be the owner or the occupant of the dwelling. In the case of single-family or two-family dwellings, it is possible for the appropriate department to fix the responsibility for improper use and maintenance of rubbish storage facilities. Such is not the case, however, for multiple-family dwellings, and the responsibility for this use is therefore placed on the owner or operator.

    M  Sanitation: Kitchen Facilities

    All kitchens or kitchenettes should contain a kitchen sink, cabinets or shelves (or both), a stove, and a refrigerator. Without these items the unit is not a dwelling unit but a rooming unit. If one of these items is missing, the health of the occupants is in jeopardy because of poor food sanitation. The kitchen sink should be an approved type and not a hand-washing sink. It should be large enough to hold a reasonably sized dish or pot. The sink should be connected to the hot- and cold-water systems. It is preferable, but not mandatory, to have a mixing faucet for safety reasons. The drain should be connected to the waste line and should include a trap. If the local plumbing code calls for a grease trap, it should be installed.

    The purpose of a kitchen sink is the correct washing of dishes used in preparing-and consuming meals. The diseases that can be caused by improperly washed dishes include food poisoning by salmonellae, shigellae, and staphylococci.

    All kitchens should be supplied with adequate cabinets or shelves for the storage of eating, drinking, and cooking equipment. These may also be used to store foodstuffs that do not require refrigeration. It is important that newly cleaned eating and cooking equipment be stored on a clean surface so that contamination does not occur.

    A stove or similar device for cooking food is necessary for maintaining adequate nutrition of-the inhabitants. A diet of only cold food soon becomes boring and of doubtful nutritional value. Additionally, some foods need to be cooked to provide safety from parasites and pathogens. A refrigerator or similar device for storing food is also required in all kitchens. The refrigerator should be capable of storing food at temperatures between 32F and 45F under ordinary maximum summer conditions. An ice box would not meet the requirements, because it cannot keep the temperature below 45F at all times during the summer. A freezer compartment is not necessary in this refrigerator, but it is always desirable because of the large amount of frozen foods now on the market. The purpose of a refrigerator is to protect the occupants of a dwelling unit from illness caused by improperly stored food. An economic factor is also involved since it is more expensive to buy food for one meal at a time.

    III.  Inspection Procedures

    A Although inspection procedures vary from city to city, there are several common items that the inspector can and should check. These include:

    1. Rodents - Rats and mice are habitually nocturnal and secretive and are rarely seen during the day except when infestations are heavy. Therefore, it is necessary to interpret signs of their activities properly in order to plan control work. These signs are found in secluded places, such as along walls, under piles of rubbish, and behind or under boxes, boards, and thick vegetation. From the rodent signs, one can tell the species present, and whether a rodent infestation is current or old, heavy or light. The following are the most common rat signs: droppings, runways, rubmarks, burrows, gnawing, and tracks.

    2. Roaches- An experienced inspector can frequently detect roaches by their oily odor and by the obvious smell of commercial repellants used by home-owners. Roaches are more commonly found in the kitchen and in the bathroom. Check drawers and cabinets and, also, check trash cans and open garbage bags; usually they are very active in and near the food sources.

    3. Bedbugs-In touring a house, notice bed linens and blankets and be alert to urine odor. Blood spots on the linen are typical signs of bedbug activity. Bedbugs have a distinctive odor. If children are at home when you call, casually observe the younger ones for bites on face and arms.

    4. In general, look for rubbish, garbage, and food leavings in or on sinks or strewn on floors. Observe any domestic animal beds or droppings.

    5. Lifting, peeling, or flaking paint should be ordered removed, and the place should be repainted with lead-free paint to prevent possible lead poisoning to children.

    6. Cracked and broken floor covering provides a nest for household pests. It should be ordered removed, the floor should be cleaned, and new covering put down. Kitchen and bathroom floor coverings should be impervious to water.

    7. Cracks around bathtubs, in toilets, or in sinks are also unsanitary.

    8. Back siphonage possibilities should be checked thoroughly. Make sure there is a proper air gap between the spill rim of basin, sink, or tub and the lowest point of the faucet.

    9. Make sure kitchens are equipped with approved garbage containers with tight-fitting lids.

    10. Refuse storage facilities should include enough containers to hold all garbage and rubbish that normally accumulates between collection days. A good refuse container should be rust resistant, water-tight, tightly covered, easy to clean, easily handled by one man, of rat-anddamage-resistant construction (heavy duty), and constructed with a recessed bottom.

    11. Keep alert for evidence of coal gas, sewer gas, and escaping cooking gas.

    12. Order all unvented home space heaters removed in your presence.

    13. Check legality of any community kitchens you may find, since they are often a source of disease.

    14. Check all windows for proper screening, where required, during the period called for in your code.

    B  The inspector will also find that there are other items he should check, and that, when these conditions are found, they should be referred to the appropriate local authority. These include:

    1. Reports by occupant of bites by rodents, roaches, or bedbugs.

    2. Broken sewage disposal lines, also referred to as sanitary waste-water lines.

    3. Stopped-up toilets.

    4. Accumulation of weeds, garbage, or trash on premises.

    5. Any obvious rashes or sores on occupants.

    Although he is empowered to and should order corrective action on most, if not all, of these problems, he should also refer these sources or evidences of disease to the health agency.

    C  Appropriate Tools

    The inspector should always carry a flashlight, thermometer, and a measuring tape. Moreover, when infestation is present, it would also be well for him to carry repellant so that he does not transport pests. Other equipment will be carried according to local department requirements.

    D  Reminder

    In carrying out the health and sanitary aspects of housing inspections, the inspectors must keep in mind that responsibility is there for them to assume. They cannot do "just their jobs." They must do the "extra" that puts them above an automaton and raises them to the class of dedicated, trained guardians of public health, safety, and welfare.


    [1] Additional information on undue lead absorption, see CDC Statement. Increased Lead Absorption and Lead Poisoning in Young Children." March 1975. Return to Paragraph

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