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Pediatrics. 2012 Dec;130(6):1053-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1531. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

Home safety and low-income urban housing quality.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



Living in substandard housing may be one factor that increases the risk of fire and burn injuries in low-income urban environments. The purposes of this study are to (1) describe the frequency and characteristics of substandard housing in urban homes with young children and (2) explore the hypothesis that better housing quality is associated with a greater likelihood of having working smoke alarms and safe hot water temperatures.


A total 246 caregivers of children ages 0 to 7 years were recruited from a pediatric emergency department and a well-child clinic. In-home observations were completed by using 46 items from the Housing and Urban Development's Housing Quality Standards.


Virtually all homes (99%) failed the housing quality measure. Items with the highest failure rates were those related to heating and cooling; walls, ceilings, and floors; and sanitation and safety domains. One working smoke alarm was observed in 82% of the homes, 42% had 1 on every level, and 62% had safe hot water temperatures. For every increase of 1 item in the number of housing quality items passed, the odds of having any working smoke alarm increased by 10%, the odds of having 1 on every level by 18%, and the odds of having safe hot water temperatures by 8%.


Many children may be at heightened risk for fire and scald burns by virtue of their home environment. Stronger collaboration between housing, health care, and injury prevention professionals is urgently needed to maximize opportunities to improve home safety.

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