Cockroaches in homes are
a health hazard to many children and families because of the risks cockroach
antigens pose to asthma sufferers. Traditionally, cockroaches were controlled
because they are offensive, leave behind an awful smell, and cause gastrointestinal
and respiratory illness. However, research shows that cockroach debris
(old shells, saliva, body parts, and droppings) triggers asthma attacks
in people who are sensitized to cockroach antigen (proteins found in the
debris). In homes where several allergens are present, including dust
mites, mold, furry pets, tobacco smoke, and certain chemicals, children
may experience severe and frequent asthma attacks from high airborne concentrations
of these allergens.
Any home with food or moisture can have cockroaches. Kitchens and bathrooms
typically have the highest number of cockroaches due to the presence of
food products and moisture from plumbing fixtures. Apartment buildings
often have the worst infestations. The goal is to keep cockroaches out
of the home and to eliminate existing pests. Reaching this goal is not
always easy, especially in multi-unit housing that is already infested.
For most apartment buildings, the landlord must take a building-wide approach
to controlling these pests. Moreover, a coordinated effort by the landlord
and all tenants is required to eliminate cockroaches.
Integrated pest management techniques that control cockroaches through
moisture control and other interventions can also help to minimize exposure
to other environmental hazards, including lead
and mold. Moisture
from leaky roofs, plumbing fixtures, spills, damp areas in the kitchen
and bathroom, and other sources should be minimized, along with access
to food, accumulation of trash, and holes and cracks in the walls. Safe
and effective pest management techniques must be utilized, as some chemicals
used to treat pests are toxic, may exacerbate asthma symptoms, and are
not successful at ridding
homes of cockroaches.
Because children spend more time indoors, allergens found in homes and
other buildings pose a significant health risk for asthma sufferers. With
rates growing at a startling rate, the hazard posed by the presence
of any cockroaches must be addressed.
Beyond Pesticides - Integrated pest management to control cockroaches
Environmental Health Watch - www.ehw.org/Asthma/ASTH_Cockroach_Control.htm
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences - www.niehs.nih.gov/airborne/prevent/roach.html
US Environmental Protection Agency - www.epa.gov/iaq/asthma/pests.html