in the home environment are a health hazard not only because of the risks
posed by cockroach antigens to asthma
sufferers, but also because they can carry disease-causing germs and because
some of the methods traditionally used to eliminate them cause additional
Any home can have cockroaches. However, there are steps you can take
to prevent cockroaches from becoming a problem in your home; identify
the extent of and solutions to any potential cockroach problem; and reduce
or eliminate cockroach problems.
General maintenance and cleaning are important because they remove the
food, water, and shelter on which cockroaches depend. There are many steps
tenants, landlords, and homeowners can take individually and jointly to
prevent cockroach infestation of the home environment.
- Wipe off counters, tables, and stovetops after all meals,
snacks, and food preparations.
- Keep food confined to specific areas of the house and
clean any spills immediately.
- Keep all food and garbage in tightly sealed containers.
- Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink, on the counter,
or in the dishwasher overnight.
- Remove all piles of boxes, cardboard, newspapers, etc.
from both inside and around the home.
- Fix leaky pipes, faucets, toilets, and other plumbing
- Use a bathroom fan that vents to the outside after all baths and
showers to reduce humidity.
- Caulk all cracks and crevices throughout the home around systems
such as plumbing, electrical, and gas lines, as well as in places like
cupboards and walls.
Generally, determining whether a home has a cockroach problem and the
extent of the infestation involves the use of glue traps, which can be
purchased at most hardware or grocery stores. The traps are laid out in
target areas, where they are left for at least one night. Upon either
filling the trap with cockroaches or waiting a predetermined length of
time, the number of cockroaches caught on the glue trap is counted to
provide an estimate of the extent of the cockroach problem in the home
environment. More detailed guidelines on deciding to test for cockroaches
and the actual testing itself are available at www.cehrc.org.
If an apartment building is to be sampled, it is best to test more than
one unit. If only one unit is tested, the landlord may claim that only
that unit is infested and put the blame for the problem solely on that
tenant. Most housing codes put responsibility for cockroach control on
the landlord if two or more units are infested.
The ultimate goal is to keep cockroaches out of a home and when necessary,
to eliminate those that are there, while keeping residents safe. Reaching
this goal can be difficult, especially in multi-unit housing that is heavily
infested. For most apartment buildings, the landlord must take a building-wide
approach to controlling cockroaches. Normally, it will take a coordinated
effort from the landlords and tenants to eliminate cockroaches. Getting
their support takes compelling evidence, such as a trap full of cockroaches
coupled with a count of the number of cockroaches.
The initial actions residents and landlords can take are regular cleaning
and maintenance to remove the food, water, and shelter for the cockroaches.
Not only will this help to prevent a cockroach problem in the first place,
it is also crucial to controlling an existing infestation and maintaining
a cockroach-free environment.
If a cockroach problem requires remedial action, there are numerous paths
of control and products available. Once a cockroach problem has been identified,
the landlord or homeowner should call an integrated pest management (IPM)
professional to conduct a formal inspection. Care should be taken to avoid
residential exposure to pesticides,
as these chemicals can be a carcinogenic
health hazard in the home. Many pesticides can also trigger asthma attacks
and cause developmental disabilities.
Pesticide sprays and fogs should not be used to control the problem.
Not only will sprays and fogs leave a residue that is hazardous to human
health, they also must be applied periodically and are not effective against
cockroaches. Baits and boric acid are safer, more preferable forms of
treatment that limit the level of human exposure to pesticides. IPM practices
to control cockroaches are a healthier way to eliminate the problem than
spraying pesticides in your home.
- IPM is effective, economical, and environmentally sensitive.
- IPM uses a combination of common-sense practices, information on the
life cycles of roaches and their interaction with the environment, and
available pest control methods.
- IPM presents the least possible hazard to people, property, and the
American Lung Association’s Health House - www.healthhouse.org/tipsheets/TS_cockroaches.pdf
Beyond Pesticides - Integrated pest management to control cockroaches
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. – Farewell to Cockroaches Guide
Community Environmental Health Resource Center (CEHRC) - www.cehrc.org
Environmental Health Watch - Cockroach Control Guide - www.ehw.org/Asthma/ASTH_Cockroach_Control.htm
Gumm, Brian, Home Energy, "Integrated Pest Management in
the Home," Vol. 21 Iss. 6 pp. 36-39 (Nov-Dec 2004)
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - www.cdc.gov/asthma/children.htm
US EPA – Asthma Triggers - Cockroaches - www.epa.gov/iaq/asthma/pests.html