Healthy Environments for Children

Healthy Envrionments

Through education and outreach, the Healthy Environments for Children (HEC) Initiative strives to protect and improve children's health as it relates to their environment—in their homes, their schools, and elsewhere. HEC has focused on environmental health issues such as lead poisoning, radon, asthma, and water conservation.

A healthy home is one that supports the health and safety of the people who live there.

Click on each item below to learn more. A healthy home is

  • Clean to reduce pests, dangerous chemicals, and asthma triggers
  • Dry to reduce pests and mold
  • Safe to reduce accidents and injuries
  • Well ventilated to provide fresh air
  • Free of pests to prevent diseases and reduce asthma triggers
  • Free of dangerous chemicals to reduce poisonings, injuries, and other harmful effects
  • In good repair to keep small problems from becoming big problems

Click to view an introduction to healthy homes.

Click to view the introduction to healthy homes with training notes.

Susie and Jerome book

Photo of an illustrated brochure called "Susie and Jerome Learn about a Healthy Home" taken on Aug. 2, 2013. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Programs and Resources for Adults

Programs and Resources for Children

Healthy Homes/Healthy Kids: a train-the-trainer program for Head Start, Early Head Start, and similar programs

HEC has developed pilot program to train Head Start and Early Head Start staff to help their families create and maintain healthy homes. The program explains how home conditions can affect children's health and how to improve those conditions. Lessons cover an introduction to healthy homes, managing lead hazards, controlling pests safely, managing mold and mildew, reducing asthma triggers, controlling clutter, smoking, and advocating for healthy homes.

[Note:This curriculum was developed with the financial support of the State of Connecticut, Department of Social Services, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, LAMPP (Lead Action for Medicaid Primary Prevention) Project, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This publication does not express the views of the State of Connecticut, its Department of Social Services, or the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors.]

Click for the detailed lesson plans.

Click for the trainer manual.

Click for the train-the-trainer slideshow.

Lead Poisoning Awareness and Prevention

Lead poisoning is a serious but preventable health problem. Lead can cause permanent damage—especially to the developing brains and nervous systems of unborn children and children under six years old.

While no amount of lead in the body is safe, the effects depend upon the level of lead in the blood. In children, even very low levels are associated with lowered intelligence, behavior problems, growth problems, hearing loss, and problems in maintaining a steady posture. Moderate levels can also harm the kidneys and liver. Very high levels can cause deafness, blindness, coma, convulsions, and even death.

Children who have been lead poisoned are much more likely to have problems with reading, vocabulary, attention, fine-motor coordination, school attendance, and academic achievement. They are more likely to drop out of high school.

Download the information sheet for parents or guardians in English (pdf) or Spanish (pdf).

Lead can also damage adults. It can cause problems with reproduction, blood pressure, digestion, the nervous system, memory and concentration, and muscles and joints.

Training programs

For educators
Lead Poisoning: Limiting the Ability to Learn

In partnership with the LAMPP (Lead Action for Medicaid Primary Prevention) project, HEC developed a training program to raise lead awareness among Connecticut educators (including teachers, administrators, pupil support personnel, health services personnel, and others, in pre-K through high school), as well as to help educators respond to the needs of children who have been harmed by lead poisoning. The program includes a two-hour classroom training, a train-the-trainer component, and an online version of the training. The training covers general information about lead poisoning, a discussion of why educators should be particularly concerned about lead poisoning, and methods of preventing lead poisoning. There is also an optional module for childcare providers, offering a brief overview of state lead-paint regulations for childcare facilities.

For employees of paint and home improvement stores
Employees in paint and home improvement stores often have the opportunity to help customers learn how to work safely around lead-based paint. To help them learn how to advise customers, training should be offered.

For contractors
Connecticut's lead-safe work practices training for painting, remodeling, and maintenance, which HEC developed in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, has been superseded by a new federal rule. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, which took full effect in April 2010, requires that:

  • Renovators must be trained in the use of specific lead-safe work practices.
  • Renovators and firms must be certified by EPA.
  • Providers of renovation training must be accredited by EPA.
  • Renovators must follow specific work-practice standards.

The rule applies to every person who is paid to perform renovation, repair, and painting projects in housing, childcare facilities, and schools built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned. These individuals include home improvement contractors, maintenance workers, painters, and members of other specialty trades. The rule does not apply to minor maintenance or repair activities, which EPA defines as affecting less than six square feet of lead-based paint in a room or less than twenty square feet of lead-based paint on the exterior. Window replacement is not minor maintenance or repair.

For more information, see EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) website.


Don't Spread Lead: A Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Preventing Lead Poisoning by Working Lead Safe
This lead-poisoning awareness video was developed for do-it-yourselfers, in English and Spanish, with an introduction by Norm Abram, master carpenter of PBS's This Old House and host of PBS's New Yankee Workshop. This video is not designed for paid contractors, whose work is governed by EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting rule.

Any home built before 1978 may contain lead paint. Doing repairs or renovations without taking proper precautions could put people at risk for lead poisoning, a very serious illness.

If a home has lead paint, then common activities—such as sanding and scraping an old windowsill or removing paint with a heat gun—can produce dangerous lead dust, chips, and fumes. Don't Spread Lead shows do-it-yourselfers how to handle small repairs or renovations safely. By using the lead-safety practices shown in this program, do-it-yourselfers can help to prevent lead poisoning for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Volunteers Opening Doors: The Five Keys to Lead Safety
This lead-poisoning awareness video was developed for volunteers in painting and housing-rehabilitation programs, in English and Spanish. This video is not designed for paid contractors, whose work is governed by EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting rule.

Millions of houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains lead. Chips, dust, and fumes from this paint can be very dangerous if they are not handled properly. Lead is particularly hazardous to unborn babies, infants, and young children. Volunteers in painting and housing-rehabilitation programs often work in homes that contain lead paint. The work they perform can create a lead hazard if they disturb this paint and produce paint chips or dust.

Volunteers Opening Doors explains how volunteers can protect housing residents, themselves, and their families from lead poisoning by using the five keys to lead safety:

  1. Protect residents and their belongings.
  2. Prepare the work area.
  3. Protect yourself from dust and debris.
  4. Work wet.
  5. Work clean.

Susie and Jerome Learn about a Healthy Home Susie and Jerome learn about a healthy home

Susie and Jerome Learn about a Healthy Home is an illustrated rhyming book for young children. In the book, a young girl named Susie, her family, and her goldfish Jerome learn the seven principles of healthy homes. They learn that a healthy home is clean, dry, safe, with fresh air, no pests, no dangerous chemicals, and in good repair. They also learn some simple ways that children and adults can apply these principles in their daily lives.

This book was developed in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Download a companion activity book and teacher guide.

Here is an animated video of the book:

Tools for Healthy Living is a new program that teaches youth in 4-H afterschool programs about healthy homes and food safety.  A trained facilitator helps students in grades 4-6 explore the principles of a healthy home and learn how they can help to make their own homes and their communities healthier. Students are introduced to various environmental health and food safety topics:

  • Lead poisoning
  • Asthma triggers
  • Mold and moisture
  • Pests and pesticides
  • Smoking
  • Clutter
  • Bacteria in food
  • Food safety and food temperature
  • Food safety and cleanliness

Students also learn how to act as advocates for a healthy home.

Lead poisoning awareness and prevention

Henry and Fred Learn about Lead

Henry and Fred Learn about Lead is a simple rhyming story that teaches young children about the dangers of lead poisoning and how they can protect themselves. It is designed for adults—parents, grandparents, guardians, childcare workers, teachers, and others—to read aloud to very young children. The book can also be used for young readers and low-literacy adults. Additional information for adults is presented at the end of the text.

This bilingual picture book, in English and Spanish, is written to inform but not frighten children, as well as to instruct the adults who read it. Appealing graphics reinforce the simple lead-safety messages.


Adventures of the Lead Busters Club

This lead-poisoning prevention curriculum includes an activity book for children in grades 1-3 and background information for teachers and parents/guardians. The children's activities include reading, writing, problem solving, a word search, a simple board game, and discussion.

Download an activity book, teacher's guide, and certificate of completion in English.

Download an activity bookteacher's guide, and certificate of completion in Spanish.

How Mother Bear Taught the Children about Lead

How Mother Bear Taught the Children about Lead teaches Native American children in grades 3-6 to identify the dangers associated with lead. It explains that lead is a poisonous substance that can make children sick. This curriculum helps children to recognize the sources of lead dangers in their environments, especially the most common sources: the dust and flakes from old, lead-based paint. It also notes other sources of lead: fishing sinkers, shotgun pellets, water from old lead pipes, and soil contaminated by leaded gasoline. Finally, the curriculum teaches children simple ways they can protect themselves and their younger siblings from lead dangers.

The curriculum uses themes and images that are culturally relevant for Native American children in grades 3-4 across North America. It has been designed for use by classroom teachers in conjunction with other aspects of the curriculum, such as language arts and science activities. A teacher's guide provides additional information about lead poisoning, as well as information for parents and guardians.

Download an activity book, teacher's guide, and certificate of completion.

Water Conservation

Water conservation

How the Children Learned to Save Water

Water is a crucial natural resource. Without water, there would be no life on Earth. Water also affects our health, lifestyle, and economic well being. On average, Americans use 100 gallons of water each day—in and around our homes (for cleaning, preparing food, and recreation), and in industry and agriculture (for transportation, generating power, and raising plants and animals). Preventing water pollution and conserving water will help to ensure an adequate supply of usable water for ourselves and for future generations. Using water wisely, as described in this book, helps to protect the quantity and quality of our water resources.

This program has been developed for, and in cooperation with, the Seneca Nation of Indians. Besides teaching about water conservation to Native American children in grades 3-5, it supports Seneca children in learning about and honoring their cultural heritage. In this book, the Seneca clan animals teach students how to use water wisely.

Download an activity book, teacher's guide, and descriptive brochure.