by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff Nicole Staudinger (center) gives Woodstock Community Center Open House attendees tips on how to make and use non-toxic household cleaning products.

Mold and lead contamination in your home could be hazardous to the health of both children and adults.

And, using toxic chemicals in household cleaning can cause discomfort and health problems.

On February 19th the Friends of the Woodstock Community Center dedicated their annual open house to a lunch potluck and a talk on how to create 'healthy homes.' The Josiah Hill III Clinic, based in Northeast Portland, provided information on mold, lead contamination, and toxic cleaning products.

Although the nonprofit volunteer-operated Josiah Hill Clinic was founded to focus on protecting families from lead contamination, in recent years it has expanded its scope of concern, and now also provides information on reducing exposure to household chemicals and mold.

Nicole Staudinger, Communications Specialist for the clinic, spoke to the dozen people who attended the open house. Using visual aids to show possible physical effects to the body caused by mold, lead, and toxic cleaning products, she described how to remove mold, how to test for lead, and how to clean without using harmful chemicals.

Staudinger explained that mold can cause asthma, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and difficulty breathing. Lead can harm soft tissue organs. Toxic household cleaners can cause stinging eyes, allergic reactions, burning lungs, sore throat and asthma attacks.

Displaying a bucket filled with toxic household cleaning agents, Staudinger talked about product labeling related to toxicity. 'Products with one of three labels - 'Caution', 'Warning' or 'Danger' - should be avoided, or used sparingly.' Only very minimal use of products in the highest toxicity category - 'danger' - was urged.

Indoor air pollution is a concern for families, especially those with young children. 'Air fresheners, rug shampoos, tile cleaners - many of these contribute to indoor air pollution, and aggravation of asthma and other respiratory conditions,' claimed Staudinger.

While many of us have heard about alternative products that can be successfully used as non-toxic household cleaners - baking soda, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and vegetable-based soaps among them - it is sometimes difficult to discard old habits and actually learn how to use them.

As people gathered to finish the Woodstock potluck after the talk, they expressed greater confidence in making the transition to using less toxic products.

Josiah Hill was a physician assistant and community activist who worked with organizations in the community for ten years to protect families from lead contamination. When Hill passed away in 2001, the clinic was founded in his memory to continue education and lead-testing for children.

Today the clinic provides materials and talks on 'healthy homes' - diminishing exposure to mold and lead, and promoting the use of alternative cleaning products - throughout Portland.

All resources and services provided by this clinic are free. Information and lists of resources are available online at: . Individual lead screening appointments at the clinic can be scheduled by calling 503/802-7389.

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