Background: Asthma prevalence is high in the inner city, and morbidity has been associated with cockroach and mouse allergens.
Objective: To characterize the relationships among pests, allergens, pesticides, and asthma in New York City public housing.
Methods: In 324 apartments, dust samples collected from beds and kitchens were analyzed for cockroach (Bla g 2) and mouse (mouse urinary protein [MUP]) allergens, pest populations were monitored, and residents were interviewed about home characteristics and asthma symptoms.
Results: Cockroaches were found in 77% of the apartments, and evidence of mice was found in 13%. Allergens and pesticide use were associated with pest infestation, and 15% of residents reported using illegal pesticides. The percentage of apartments with high allergen levels varied significantly by building (Bla g 2: P = .002; MUP: P = .03), as did the percentage of apartments with cockroaches (P = .002) and daily mouse sightings (P = .02). Thirty-seven percent of the apartments had at least 1 resident with physician-diagnosed asthma. In family buildings, apartments with high Bla g 2 levels had 1.7 times greater odds of having an asthmatic resident (95% confidence interval, 1.2–2.3). In senior citizen buildings, apartments with high MUP levels had 6.6 times greater odds of having an asthmatic resident (95% confidence interval, 1.4–31.7), controlling for smoking and other potential confounders.
Conclusions: Previous studies have identified home characteristics associated with the presence of cockroaches and mice, but the present findings suggest that building-level characteristics can affect high pest exposure. Furthermore, the high asthma prevalence in residents and the use of illegal pesticides highlight the need for safe and effective building-wide pest control strategies.