EEEK – Rats!

By Maureen O’Neill

It’s an admittedly disgusting topic. I work on environmental health and that includes pesticides. I’ve read plenty about managing rats which are a significant health hazard – both from diseases and from chewing through wires and causing electrical fires.

Have you ever seen a rat in NYC? Of course you have, but you think it’s about the subway or someplace else you don’t live.

A rat wanders the subway tracks at Union Square. Rats have infested multiple subway lines in lower Manhattan and often live right in the station walls, according to a rodent expert overseeing what officials say is a new approach to battling rats in the nation's largest subway system. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Recently a church was built on my block. It was one more construction project in a city that is always reinventing itself, and I didn’t think much about it. That is, until I started walking my dog near the site in the evening.

I have a 55 pound dog that is playful and has serious jaws! He loves to chase after anything that moves. Unfortunately, that includes rats that were displaced by the construction and looking for new homes. My dog would see a rat and go for it. I, of course, would see a rat and pull away in horror. I’m proud to say I won the tug of war, but it got me thinking.

If there were rats at this site, where else were they in my neighborhood? I remembered that the city started a rat portal where you could see where rats had been found in buildings.

Imagine my horror when I saw there had been rat activity in my apartment building! I hasten to add I live in a nice building where you would NEVER imagine there were rats. The good news is that all inspections following the discovery say the building passed.

You might want to check out activity in your area and see how it’s doing. If that’s too much reality, try checking out Ratatouille, a fun, animated movie that can almost make you feel better about rats – that is, until you come face to face with the real thing!

About the Author: Maureen O’Neill is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Region’s Office of Strategic Programs. Her focus is targeting environmental programs and resources to issues impacting environmental health, with a particular focus on at-risk children. Prior to her New York assignment, her work involved water issues, both domestic and international. She has been involved with the United States Government Middle East Peace Process focusing on water issues.

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