Environmental Conditions in the Homes of a Rural Iowa County

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Merchant, James A.;
  • Reynolds, Stephen, J.;
  • Kelly, Kevin M.;
  • Stromquist, Ann M.;
  • Taylor, Craig D.;
  • Zwerling, Craig


The Keokuk County Rural Health Study (KCRHS) is a unique, population-based prospective study of a sample population in an agricultural county in southeastern Iowa. The study presently has 1,005 participating households, stratified into three distinct groups (town, rural non-farm, and farm households) based on the location of the dwelling or home. Participating households receive a medical screening at the medical clinic, located in the county seat. An environmental evaluation is conducted at the residence or farm, consisting of a combination of personal interviews, walk-through observations, and the measurement of a limited number of environmental parameters. Older homes are associated with the use of lead paint, ungrounded electrical systems, asbestos-containing building materials or insulation, and the presence of lead pipe or lead solder in the drinking water system. Approximately 69% of the dwellings in the Keokuk County Rural Health Study were constructed prior to 1970. Twenty percent were constructed prior to 1900. Carbon monoxide measurements ranged from 1 to 9 ppm in 19% of the households. Three homes had carbon monoxide concentrations exceeding 50 ppm. Twenty percent of households had no grounded outlets in high-risk basement or bathroom areas. While nearly 80% of the surveyed households had at least one smoke detector in the home, only 63% of the residences had a minimum of one operating smoke detector. Forty-one percent of households had a water temperature in excess of 130°̊F, and 18 households had water temperatures in excess of 150°̊F, posing a risk for burns and scalding. By promoting a partnership between the academic and local communities, the Keokuk County Rural Health Study can assist local citizens in addressing numerous public health issues. Programs underway include increasing community awareness of the importance of the use of seat belts and child restraints, correct placement and testing of smoke alarms, fall prevention, protecting the public from carbon monoxide poisoning, avoiding burns from hot water, and identifying electrical hazards.

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