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Pennsylvania Safe and Healthy Homes Program

The Pennsylvania Safe and Healthy Homes Program (SHHP) seeks to provide education and interventions to promote healthy homes and prevent problems and injuries. When hazards are present in a home, they can have a profound effect upon the health of the occupants, particularly those most vulnerable such as children. Some home conditions contribute to asthma development or exacerbation, including mold, mildew, dust mites, pests and pet dander. When these allergens are reduced or eliminated, thereby reducing asthma triggers, children have fewer and milder asthmatic episodes.

Lead paint and the dust that results from the breakdown of the paint, can lead to serious health issues, including loss of IQ, ADD, ADHD, coma and even death. Other home conditions that can lead to illness or injury are safety hazards , carbon monoxide and radon. In 2008, there were 4,620 non-fatal injuries due to non-motor vehicle accidents for children aged 14 and under - a rate of 201.7 per 100,000 residents. Low-income, young children are particularly vulnerable to health complications associated with unhealthy home environments. In 2000, Pennsylvania’s 1,043,455 children under seven years of age placed seventh in the nation for having the most children in that age group.

Pennsylvania’s diverse landscape of rural and urban communities includes some of the oldest housing in the nation. Indoor environmental health and safety hazards tend to be found disproportionately in older and substandard housing. According to the 2000 Census, Pennsylvania was second in the nation, behind New York, for having the most housing units built before 1950. Pennsylvania’s 2,113,422 pre-1950 built units account for approximately 40 percent of its entire housing stock. The correlation of high lead levels with older housing is very strong.

Lead paint was not banned until 1978; therefore, many of Pennsylvania’s homes hold potentially hazardous sources of lead exposure. Recent studies have shown that even low blood lead levels in young children are more dangerous than previously thought. In 2007, 5,833 (or, 4.6 percent) of the state’s 126,522 lead-tested children under six years of age had a maximum blood lead level result equal to, or greater than, the established threshold of elevation (10 micrograms per deciliter).

Statewide, in 2009, there were 24,458 inpatient hospitalizations due to asthma, or 19.4 per 10,000 residents. The rate for children under five was 48.5 per 10,000 residents, the highest of any age group. The cost for those hospitalizations was approximately $556 million, not including physician charges. Asthma triggers such as mold, mildew, and dust mites continue to disproportionately impact the most vulnerable populations living in the oldest Pennsylvania housing.

Seven Principles of Healthy Housing

Keep it…

  • dry
  • clean
  • pest-free
  • ventilated
  • safe
  • contaminant-free
  • maintained

Contact Information
Safe and Healthy Homes Program
Bureau of Family Health
Health and Welfare Building        
Seventh Floor, East Wing        
625 Forster St.
Harrisburg PA 17120
717 772-2762