Environmental Health Risks Associated with Off-Campus Student-Tenant Housing

While previous studies have established an association between poor housing conditions and adverse health effects, none has specifically addressed health and safety risks to the college student population in rental housing. A needs-assessment survey was conducted to determine the prevalence of adverse health and safety conditions in off-campus student housing associated with a large university in the western United States. Results from 1,959 student-tenant surveys revealed problems with installed appliances (39.6%); visible mold (39.3%); heating/cooling systems (31.9%); indoor dampness/water damage (24.9%); security locks (23.4%); ants (17.1%); electrical wiring (11.3%); malfunctioning or missing smoke alarms (11.2%); broken steps/handrails (7.8%); and mice (4.8%), among other problems. Reported health effects associated with housing included headaches, coughing, sneezing, nausea, and dizziness, and these effects were found to significantly correlate with increased environmental problems. The results of this study indicate a need to inform college students about environmental health and safety problems in leased housing, to promote responsibility of landlords to provide safe and healthful environments, and to raise awareness of this issue for public health and housing officials in university communities across the country.

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