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'Build Smart, Breathe Easier' Dedicates House With Asthma-Healthy Features with Detroit Family

The first Habitat for Humanity house built as part of the 'Build Smart, Breathe Easier' national asthma education program will be dedicated in partnership with the Dunmore family in Detroit on Friday, July 29.

Program partners Merck, Habitat for Humanity Detroit, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and HGTV's Carter Oosterhouse will host a dedication ceremony where Betty Dunmore and her three daughters will receive keys and walk through their completed home with asthma-healthy features for the first time.

The Dunmores are one of four families identified by Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the country as being in need of simple, decent, affordable housing and are affected by asthma. Betty Dunmore is a single mother with three daughters -- Androni, 12, who has asthma, and Amyre, 5 1/2 and Cameron, 4, who also experiences asthma-like symptoms. In the past, they have coped with living in an apartment in disrepair with no outside area for the daughters to play. Their new house will help provide a better living environment for the entire family, which is particularly important for Androni and Cameron.

"I am excited to become a homeowner for the first time with the help of Habitat for Humanity Detroit," Dunmore said. "When I learned our new house was being built with asthma-healthy features, I felt extreme gratitude in knowing my family will now have a healthy place to call home."

Based on principles from AAFA's asthma and allergy friendly certification program, the house incorporates healthy features using specific building techniques, materials and ventilation systems. Some of these elements include:

* Wood vinyl floors that do not require adhesive except at the seams, reducing the overall level of volatile organic chemicals such as solvents in the house
* Paint with a VOC-free, antimicrobial finish, which helps prevent the adherence of mold or bacteria and has no lingering odor
* Plywood cabinets in place of the standard particle board cabinets, which emit lower levels of VOCs and require less VOC-emitting adhesive
* Heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters with high minimum efficiency reporting value ratings, which capture more and smaller-sized air particles than filters with lower MERV ratings
* A bath fan and kitchen stove range hood that vent to the exterior of the house to remove excess moisture and indoor air pollution that may impact someone with asthma
* Advanced framing techniques that allow for heavy insulation of the exterior walls and reduce the amount of air and moisture infiltration. Expanding foam is also used around the exterior doors, windows and foundation wall to help reduce moisture flow and outside air that may contain additional asthma triggers from entering the house

Merck is also donating modest, AAFA-certified furnishings to the family to help them maintain an asthma-healthy home. These include: asthma-healthy bedding for everyone in the home and asthma-healthy toys for the children; a vacuum with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter suitable for cleaning hard-surface flooring and area rugs; and a washer and dryer that reach the necessary temperature to kill dust mites and their eggs.

As part of Build Smart, Breathe Easier, three additional houses with asthma-healthy features are currently under construction in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Los Angeles with the help of volunteers and the partner families. These houses will be dedicated in November and December this year.

If you, a family member or a friend is suffering from asthma, please visit Build Smart, Breathe Easier at to learn how to reduce exposure to asthma triggers in the home and access tools that can help manage the disease. There, you can also stay up-to-date on the home builds, including information about the families, volunteer opportunities and progress on each of the houses.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's 2011 Asthma Capitals report, Detroit is ranked 23 out of 100 large cities that are challenging for individuals with asthma. In Detroit alone, 13.7 percent of adults suffer from asthma, which is 50 percent higher than the state of Michigan as a whole. Rates of asthma hospitalization in Detroit are also three times higher than that of Michigan as a whole.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by inflammation of the air passages, resulting in the episodic narrowing of the airways. Asthma symptoms can be triggered by allergens or irritants and symptoms can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. With more than 24 million people living with asthma in the United States, it is one of the most common and costly chronic diseases. Annually, this disease leads to almost two million asthma-related emergency room visits and close to 4,000 asthma-related deaths in the United States.

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