Effectiveness of an Integrated Pest Management Intervention in Controlling Cockroaches, Mice, and Allergens in New York City Public Housing

Background: Cockroaches and mice, which are common in urban homes, are sources of allergens capable of triggering asthma symptoms. Traditional pest control involves the use of scheduled applications of pesticides by professionals as well as pesticide use by residents. In contrast, integrated pest management (IPM) involves sanitation, building maintenance, and limited use of least toxic pesticides.

Objectives: We implemented and evaluated IPM compared with traditional practice for its impact on pests, allergens, pesticide use, and resident satisfaction in a large urban public housing authority.

Methods: We assigned IPM or control status to 13 buildings in five housing developments, and evaluated conditions at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months in 280 apartments in Brooklyn and Manhattan, in New York City (New York). We measured cockroach and mouse populations, collected cockroach and mouse urinary protein allergens in dust, and interviewed residents. All statistical models controlled for baseline levels of pests or allergens.

Results: Compared with controls, apartments receiving IPM had significantly lower counts of cockroaches at 3 months and greater success in reducing or sustaining low counts of cockroaches at both 3 and 6 months. IPM was associated with lower cockroach allergen levels in kitchens at 3 months and in beds and kitchens at 6 months. Pesticide use was reduced in IPM relative to control apartments. Residents of IPM apartments also rated building services more positively.

Conclusions: In contrast to previous IPM studies, which involved extensive cleaning, repeat visits, and often extensive resident education, we found that an easily replicable single IPM visit was more effective than the regular application of pesticides alone in managing pests and their consequences.

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