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Habitat for Humanity Detroit's First Asthma-Healthy House

A lucky local family is breathing easier in a new home

As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, Habitat for Humanity Detroit is proud to have partnered with Merck and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) to build a home with asthma-healthy features for a low-income family affected by the disease. The Build Smart Breathe Easier program was facilitated by Habitat for Humanity International, which helped the pharmaceutical company and advocacy organization choose four cities around the nation for the building of a new house.

Asthma statistics in the Detroit area are startling and greatly influenced the decision to build in Detroit. For instance:

  • In Detroit, recent asthma hospitalization rates for African Americans are more than two times higher than those for Whites.
  • In Detroit alone, 13.7 percent of adults suffer from asthma, which is a 50 percent higher rate than the state of Michigan as a whole.
  • The rate of asthma hospitalizations for Detroit children is 50 percent higher than that of Detroit adults.

The Habitat Detroit home was completed in July and was designed to reduce a variety of asthma triggers, which can include mold, dust mites and strong fumes or odors. Habitat Detroit incorporated asthma-healthy techniques, materials and systems into the building process based on principles from AAFA's asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program.

Highlights include hard-surface flooring throughout the home, low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, plywood cabinetry, moisture-resistance drywall board, an advanced heating, ventilation and air conditioning system which captures more and smaller-sized air particles, and a Whirlpool washer and dryer unit that reaches high temperatures to kill dust mites and their eggs.

Additionally, all beds in the home will be outfitted with bedding certified by AAFA, which means they provide a barrier against dust mites and are made of materials that can withstand frequent washing. Finally, the family will receive asthma-healthy plush toys and an AAFA-certified vacuum cleaner.

So, who is the lucky family that has moved into Habitat Detroit's first asthma-healthy home? Working single mother Betty Dunmore and her three daughters.

While moving into their Habitat home will help to better their overall quality of life, Betty is especially anxious to have a healthier living environment for her oldest daughter, 12-year-old Androni, who suffers from asthma. Says Betty, "I'm so excited to have a home that will help Androni breathe easier. It is so difficult to see her struggle with this condition. My youngest daughter, [5-year-old] Cameron, is also starting to exhibit symptoms of asthma. So hopefully our Habitat house will be able to help her, too."

Before being accepted into the program, Betty didn't know much about Habitat, but she jumped in with enthusiasm. In addition to her full-time job, Betty was diligent about completing her sweat equity hours and recruiting friends and family members to ensure that she stayed on track.

"The sponsors are doing an awesome deed for people who desire to own [and] live in a decent home, and they are helping someone who wants more for their family. I am so excited and grateful to be a Habitat Family Partner," she says.

Designer, carpenter, HGTV personality and the Build Smart Breathe Easier spokesperson, Carter Oosterhouse, was present for the Dunmore House Dedication in July. At this special event, Betty and the girls saw their finished home for the first time and learned about its asthma-friendly features.

Visit BuildSmartBreatheEasier.com, where you can stay up-to-date on all the home builds, including information about Habitat families and volunteer opportunities.

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