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

Daniel Kass; Wendy McKelvey; Elizabeth Carlton; Marta Hernandez; Ginger Chew; Sean Nagle; Robin Garfinkel; Brian Clarke; Julius Tiven; Christian Espino; David Evans


Environ Health Perspect. 2009;117(8):1219-1225. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


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.


Cockroaches and rodents are present in the homes of many urban residents in the United States. Besides causing annoyance and stress, they are sources of allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitized individuals, and they may increase the risk of allergic sensitization (Chew et al. 2008; Gruchalla et al. 2005; Huss et al. 2001; Matsui et al. 2004; Morgan et al. 2004; Nelson 2000; Phipatanakul et al. 2000; Rosenstreich et al. 1997).

The professional control of residential pests has traditionally depended on personnel licensed by states to apply pesticides. Pesticides applied in urban homes include insecticides and rodenticides, and their chemical formulations frequently involve active and inactive ingredients that are acute toxicants, known or suspected carcinogens (California Environmental Protection Agency 2005), or developmental or reproductive toxicants [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2004]. Their application may result in human exposure via inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption from initial applications and their residual presence.

Pest control that depends on chemical-only approaches is limited by its failure to address conditions that sustain pest populations—the ability of pests to move within and between residences, the presence of food and water sources typically found in kitchens and bathrooms, and the ability of pests to find and create shelter. Integrated pest management (IPM) is an approach that primarily involves improving sanitary and structural conditions to deny pests food, water, harborage, and movement, and includes the judicious use of pesticides after an evaluation of need and the hazard to human occupants.

Several studies have evaluated the use of interventions in which residents were given equipment and taught how to use IPM principles to control cockroaches and allergens in their homes, either alone (Klinnert et al. 2005; Krieger et al. 2005; McConnell et al. 2005) or in combination with professional pest control using low-toxicity pesticides (Brenner et al. 2003; Condon et al. 2007; Morgan et al. 2004; Peters et al. 2007). These studies suggest that education about IPM, either alone or combined with commercial cleaning, successfully reduced either cockroach counts (Brenner et al. 2003; McConnell et al. 2005) or cockroach allergen levels (Klinnert et al. 2005; McConnell et al. 2005; Morgan et al. 2004). Another study compared IPM that included repeated visits with the use of insect growth regulator devices to treatment with spray pesticide alone in public housing, using a commercial service for both treatments (Miller and Meek 2004). The results suggested that IPM was superior to the traditional intervention in reducing cockroach populations. Two features of these studies limit their instructiveness for significant institutional replication and expansion. First, these studies have typically recruited from, and analyzed impact of IPM on, individual rental apartments without building-level interventions. Second, these studies, some of which involved goals beyond pest control, have involved repeated visits by pest control professionals, cleaning services, or educators. The present study, in contrast, involves a single visit by pest control professionals with the intervention at the building level.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest public housing owner in North America, with > 405,000 low-income residents. The successful implementation of IPM in an institution of this size was thought to offer many potential benefits: pesticide use reduction, improved pest management, and reduced pest and allergen burdens in housing populated by largely black and Hispanic families with disproportionately high prevalence of asthma (Stevenson et al. 2000). After a successful pilot program in public housing (Kass and Outwater 2003), the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the NYCHA developed an IPM intervention designed to be simple, low cost, and relatively easily scaled if successful. It involved a single visit to homes by a specially constituted team of NYCHA pest control personnel during which IPM services were conducted in kitchens and bathrooms. This intervention was compared with the NYCHA's conventional pest control, which involved the offer of calendar-based application of spray pesticides in nonintervention apartments, for its impact on populations of cockroaches and mice and levels of cockroach and mouse allergen.


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