children’s health

Growers Manage Pests to Produce Great Apples

By Marcia Anderson

Working in the Office of Pesticide Programs, I was excited to learn of the progress New England fruit growers were making in using “integrated pest management” to reduce pests and pesticides in their orchards.Apples

As we go about picking and eating our apples, many of us are not aware how much New England apple growers must battle pest problems on a continual basis. Pests like moths, mites, and fungi see an apple orchard as a place to eat or reproduce. In general, they have found that integrated pest management – an environmentally friendly, common sense way of controlling pests that involves a variety of approaches – is the way to go. Because the ecology in every orchard is different, pest conditions and circumstances are different for every grower and thus solutions may vary.

Integrated Pest Management has become increasingly engrained in apple pest management in this area over the past 30 years. Most New England growers live right on their farms and have found the most effective way to control pests is by using scientifically-based IPM practices that help their orchards in the long-term.

Growers monitor their orchards weekly from early spring through the growing season to determine pest pressures. Growers and crop consultants become intimate with their location, learn about past disease and pest pressures and about the ecology of their orchards. And they learn something new every year.

Farmers who use integrated pest management can reduce their two highest bills: for pesticides and fertilizers and for fuel.

Maintenance and sanitation are key parts of preventing pests in apple orchards.

Apple scab damage on mature fruit.

Apple scab damage on mature fruit.

Farmers have learned it helps to keep the land and water as clean as possible. In the fall, growers clean the orchard floor, cutting suckers off tree trunks, and clearing weeds from under the trees. Fallen leaves, grass clippings, and winter prunings are mulched and returned to the soil. Leaves chopped small will decompose more quickly and neither the pests nor diseases will have anywhere to overwinter, reducing the pest populations in the orchard the next spring. The only thing removed are the apples.

Simply maintaining this level of sanitation successfully reduces the presence of apple scab, one of the most persistent pest problems in orchards. Apple scab comes from a fungal spore that overwinters on the ground. It normally requires a fungicide, or anti-fungal pesticide, to stop its development. Those spores make leathery-brown scabs that blemish the fruit and reduce its perceived quality and this its economic value.

Apple scab also damages trees by creating lesions on leaves that spread and interfere with photosynthesis. A bad scab infection can shut down a whole tree and spread quickly throughout the orchard.

Other pest prevention methods include planting pest-resistant varieties and replenishing nutrients. Apple trees need specific nutrients to produce quality fruit. When hundreds of bushels of apples per acre are removed annually, nutrients are removed from the soil. Soil should be monitored and nutrients added when necessary.

So why should we care about pest prevention and the appropriate use of pesticides on our apples? One reason is that apples are prevalent in the diets of our children. And they’re good for us! Using the scientifically-based best practices of integrated  pest management, northeastern apple growers can give us high quality apples at reasonable prices.

More information from EPA on Integrated Pest Management: https://www.epa.gov/managing-pests-schools/introduction-integrated-pest-management

You can see New England growers discuss using IPM to prevent pests in series of three videos by the New England Apple Association.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Forum Targets Basic Water Needs in Appalachia

by Lori Reynolds

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Big Stone Gap, Virginia is about as far as you can go in EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region.  But it was worth every mile of travel to help communities in Appalachia find ways to pay for badly-needed water and wastewater infrastructure.  The EPA Water Finance Forum was all it was intended to be – and so much more.

The forum held in mid-June was designed as a peer-to-peer type of transfer with panels of local presenters sharing information about funding opportunities, innovative solutions, and success stories.

I was anxious to meet the many people I had spoken to and corresponded with over the prior four months while planning for the forum.

Upon arriving, I was pleasantly greeted by mountains which seemed to rise up at my feet; the beauty of the area is undeniable.  Some from the EPA regional office asked, “Why Appalachia?”  The answer was simple.  Appalachia is a big part of EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and all of West Virginia.  And it’s an area where the water and wastewater infrastructure needs are great and the challenges complex (rural area, with low population density, mountainous terrain, difficult geology, and limited water and economic resources).

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Although progress has been made, there are still homes and families in Appalachia that do not have public water and reliable sewage treatment.  Yes, in the year 2016, there are citizens living in the United States of America where raw sewage runs directly into streams.  I can hardly imagine a life without readily available water from the tap and indoor plumbing to flush away waste.

A presenter at the forum complemented the challenges by describing the “mountain ethic” as “see a problem, come together and find a solution,” which put into words what I sensed.  Highlights about the value of water and stories about its impact on the quality of life recalled for me why I dedicated my career to water protection.  I’m excited about the Water Finance Forum marking the beginning of a longer relationship and commitment to help people and communities, who often feel forgotten, not only acquire, but sustain reliable water and wastewater services.

In the coming weeks and months, we will have an opportunity to strengthen the connections we made through the Water Finance Forum.  As one presenter put it, “the work takes commitment, dedication, and a willingness to work hard.”  Since these are the very same qualities demonstrated by the people who proudly call Appalachia home, I’m confident that our investments in the Appalachian Region will succeed.

 

About the Author:  Lori Reynolds works in the region’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, which provides funding to states for water and wastewater infrastructure.  She is naturally drawn to water, working in the Water Protection Division, swimming in pools and open water as part of a Master’s swim team, and as an Aquarius.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Going Home to Manage the Final Steps of Omaha’s Historic Lead Cleanup

By Steve Kemp

About two years ago, when my boss first asked me to take the lead Remedial Project Manager’s role at the Omaha Lead Superfund Site, I had to laugh. I was born and raised in Omaha, where I graduated from Benson High School, left for four years while I was in the Army, returned to get my degree at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and then moved away to start my career.

Although I still go back frequently to visit family and friends, I haven’t lived in Omaha since the late 1980s. However, it seems that every few years I am drawn back to my hometown for one project or another.

I worked at the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) for many years, and one of the projects I was involved with was the Omaha Riverfront Redevelopment. At the time, the project was the largest in Nebraska’s Voluntary Cleanup Program. The project included the area for the Gallup Riverfront Campus along Abbott Drive, and extended south to the National Park Service building, and the Bob Kerry Footbridge.

The project was a cooperative effort among state, local, and federal government entities, and businesses. Thanks to my staff, the project was a big success. Now I was being asked to assume responsibility for the Omaha Lead Superfund Site, the largest residential lead cleanup site in the history of the Superfund program. I thought it seemed appropriate.

Over a Century of Lead Contamination

The soil in much of eastern Omaha was contaminated with lead from several sources, including a former paint manufacturer, and lead battery recycling, and smelting operations. The most significant source was the former ASARCO lead smelter, located on the west bank of the Missouri River just north of Douglas Street. Lead smelting began at this location in 1870 when the plant was owned by Omaha Smelting Works. The plant changed ownership over time and was owned by ASARCO starting around 1899. By 1915, the ASARCO smelter was the largest lead smelter in the country. ASARCO owned the plant for about 100 years. The ASARCO plant closed in 1997 in a separate cleanup action coordinated by NDEQ.

Workers clean up lead from residential yard in Omaha

Workers clean up lead from residential yard in Omaha

For a century, the ASARCO plant discharged fine particles of lead from the smokestacks into the air. The lead particles were transported by wind and deposited over a large area. In addition to the lead particles from the smelter, another significant source of lead in Omaha’s soil is lead-based paint that chips off of buildings and falls onto the soil near structures, such as houses and garages.

Serious Health Issue

This lead was found in the soil, and people – especially children – were exposed to the contaminated soil. Beginning in the 1970s, children in Omaha were tested and many living within the boundary of the site had very high levels of lead in their blood. This was a serious issue, because lead poisoning can cause a wide variety of health problems, including difficulty with learning and behavioral development. In 1998, the Omaha City Council requested that EPA help address the lead problem in eastern Omaha.

In 1999, EPA began collecting soil samples from properties, including child care facilities, schools, playgrounds, parks, and of course, private homes. EPA later began testing the paint on homes to determine whether the paint contained any lead. EPA also began collecting dust samples from homes to determine whether lead-contaminated dust had entered from outside.

Successes and Challenges

Example of yard before cleanup

Example of yard before cleanup

After 16 years, EPA’s work is now winding down. Over that time, EPA tested soil samples from 40,000 properties and cleaned up more than 13,000 properties that were contaminated with lead. During the busiest years, EPA cleaned up about 2,000 properties each year. Over the last few years, EPA has cleaned up a few hundred properties each year. The slower pace is largely due to increased difficulty obtaining permission from the remaining property owners to clean up their properties.

In 2010, EPA committed to completing the field work for the project by the end of 2015. When I was assigned to the project in February 2014, there were still about 1,800 properties left to be remediated. EPA had obtained permission to clean up a little more than half of these. One of the challenges was to find a way to clean up all the remaining properties and keep the commitment to complete EPA’s field work by Dec. 31, 2015.

City Takes on Final Phases

Example of yard after cleanup

Example of yard after cleanup

In late summer of 2014, EPA began discussions with personnel from the City of Omaha Planning Department to determine whether the city would be willing to take the lead on the remaining contaminated properties. EPA explained that we had done all we could reasonably do to obtain voluntary access from property owners. If EPA was going to obtain additional access, it would likely be necessary to pursue legal action to compel the remaining property owners to allow their properties to be cleaned up. After extensive discussions, the city decided to take on the final phases of work, agreeing that it would attempt to obtain permission to collect soil samples and clean up the remaining properties.

In May 2015, EPA awarded $31 million to the City of Omaha through a cooperative agreement to address these final phases of work. It is hoped that the owners of remaining properties will feel more comfortable, and therefore, more willing to grant access to the city. Only time will tell.

As EPA completes its portion of the residential cleanup activities, I am glad to have been part of this project. Although I only worked on the project for two of the 16 years, I’m grateful that I was able to make a contribution in my hometown. I am also hopeful that as the city continues with its part of the project, this will prove to be a new type of cooperative approach between EPA and local governments.

Learn more about the Omaha Lead Superfund Site.

About the Author: Steve Kemp has served for the past two years as project coordinator for the Omaha Lead Superfund Site. He’s a native of Omaha, and a professional geologist and remedial project manager for EPA Region 7.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Spring Cleaning Can Be Even Healthier using Green Products

The welcome return of spring sunshine makes me think of one thing – grimy, winter-weary windows. And then there’s the fridge, the baseboards, the carpets, the bathroom grout, the kitchen cabinets. All these little spots we ignored all winter are now ready for a thorough scrub. No wonder nearly 75 percent of Americans like to do a good spring cleaning.

Good thing you can use the EPA Safer Choice label to help you find cleaning and other household products that are made with ingredients that are safer for people and the environment.

Healthy Choices

That’s a great assurance, considering household cleaning products are one source of indoor air pollution, which can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.

Products with safer ingredients improve indoor air quality and can lower the risk of health hazards, including respiratory conditions like asthma; allergic reactions, which can cause skin rashes, hives or headaches; and a variety of other conditions. Children and older people, in particular, are more susceptible to risks — so they’re better off in spaces cleaned with safer products and wearing clothes cleaned with a laundry detergent that uses safer solvents and surfactants.  And what about parents and those who regularly clean and do the wash, coming in close contact with cleaners and detergents? Safer is certainly better for them. Safer Choice recognizes that everyday cleaning products make a big difference to your family’s well-being.

Cleaners also affect the quality of our local streams, rivers and lakes. When Safer Choice products get rinsed down the drain and make their way into the watershed, they are less toxic to fish and other aquatic life. That’s good news for New England’s iconic waterways, whether it’s Lake Champlain, the Charles River or Long Island Sound… or the ponds, streams and wetlands found throughout New England.

IMG_0749

Here’s something that may surprise you. Unlike food producers, cleaning product manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on their containers or make them public. But to display the Safer Choice label, manufacturers must list all of their product’s ingredients either on the product or on an easy-access website.

Safer Choice is the first federal label for cleaning products and it is proving incredibly popular. More than 2,000 products have already earned the right to carry the logo. They’re available in local grocery stores and hardware stores, and include cleaners for use at home, offices, schools, hotels and sports venues.

The agency’s website (https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice) lists all the products that proudly carry the Safer Choice label. We also offer interactive tools to find the best cleaning products for your home and for businesses like schools, hotels, offices, and sports venues. And my personal favorite – cleaners for those grimy windows.

By Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator, US EPA Region 1 (New England Region)

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reflections on Children’s Health Month: Looking Back to Move Ahead

By Ruth Etzel, MD

In October we celebrated Children’s Health Month. As I reflect on the month, I think of the many exciting events and activities that highlighted the importance of our work to protect children’s health. One event in particular, a meeting of The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children (Task Force), stands out in my mind. Not because it was the biggest or the most visible, but because of who attended and what their participation and leadership means for the health of our nation’s children.

The Task Force was established in 1997 by Executive Order 13045 and is co-chaired by Administrator Gina McCarthy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Task Force’s 17 member agencies and offices work to accomplish the goals set out by the Executive Order, including:

  • Identifying priority risks and issues
  • Developing strategies
  • Recommending and implementing interagency actions
  • Communicating information to decision makers for use in protecting children’s environmental health and safety

The Task Force accomplishes its activities through four subcommittees focused on asthma disparities, healthy settings, chemical risks, and climate change. Recent achievements of the Task Force include the development of a Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities aimed at reducing the burden of asthma among minority children and those with family incomes below the poverty level; guidance to the Federal Healthy Homes Work Group in the development of its plan, “Advancing Healthy Housing — A Strategy for Action”; and consulting on the impacts of climate change on children’s environmental health, to inform the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate and Health Assessment.

At the October 14 meeting, representatives from eighteen different government agencies and offices participated and discussed their commitments related to work of the subcommittees and other children’s environmental health topics. In a time where government agencies have such varying priorities and limited resources to address the growing number of public concerns and challenges, I was proud to see that children’s health is one issue that remains a priority. Having so many different federal agencies come together to weigh-in, share accomplishments and recommit to continuing to work around this issue is a testament to how critically important children’s environmental health is at a national level. One of the highlights of the meeting was the level of support and commitment to the Task Force’s next unified goal: a new work plan to guide the group’s efforts over the next year and into the future. This product is currently in the development phase and I’m looking forward to being able to share more information with federal partners as it is finalized early next year.

This meeting reminded me of why I chose public service: to be part of an integrated and sustained effort to ensure that all children, regardless of where they live, have the opportunity to live, learn, work and play in healthy environments that enable them to reach their full potential.

As we move beyond Children’s Health month, I’m hopeful that our partnerships with other federal agencies and colleagues in communities across the nation will continue to flourish. There is still much work to be done. By working together, we can continue make the environment a better place for the next generation.

For more information about the Task Force, visit: http://www2.epa.gov/children/presidents-task-force-environmental-health-and-safety-risks-children

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A Halloween Nightmare

By Vickie Pane

Lead Pain PosterHalloween is right around the corner and many people will celebrate by visiting haunted houses or trails, telling scary stories, watching horror films and such. What a lot of people don’t realize is that they may be unwittingly living in a horror story of their own…

There are many abandoned houses throughout New York and New Jersey. You pass by them every day. Do you ever take notice of one and wonder about its story? I know I do. When I was a child I romanticized stories about the former occupants of those boarded up homes and wondered what had gone so wrong. I wondered if spirits walked the halls. What was behind those boarded up windows?  Would it be too dangerous to explore? Today, I know that they are very dangerous places – but not just for the obvious structural integrity concerns. There are evil demons dwelling inside. Quietly waiting for the innocent to enter…

Do you live with your family in an older home, one filled with the charm of days gone by? Some of those beauties have high ceilings, pocket doors, intricate molding, fireplace mantels, built-in shelving, elaborate front porches and more. True architectural masterpieces! But those surfaces also have a sinister secret, and you and your family could be in grave danger…

Although old homes may (or may not be) haunted by ghosts, they are haunted by a toxic presence oozing creepily from their walls. An invisible menace: lead. Most frightening is that this demon silently poisons its trespassers. Its victims are naively unaware of what’s happening to them, and the children (like in any truly horrific story) are attacked most vehemently. Lead slaughters their future. While they innocently crawl upon the floors and creep along the walls, steady themselves in doorways and on window sills, our most vulnerable unknowingly ingest the very smallest amounts of lead on minuscule dust particles. Their little bodies and brains are invaded by a devastating ghoul that will continue to wreak havoc in their bodies for many years, even decades. AND THE DAMAGE LEAD HAS WROUGHT CAN GO UNNOTICED. A true life horror story if there ever was one!

October is Children’s Health Month and during this final week in October, we also observe Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Lead poisoning is an insidious foe, a true demon of monstrous proportions and worthy of Halloween nightmares. Lead poisoning affects every organ in the human body, and it does so silently, unassumingly, stealthily. The culprit could be lurking in your own home, on your very own walls. If your home was built before 1978, somewhere beneath the surface of all those many layers of paint, there are very likely layers of paint that contain lead. Lead does not disappear. If you renovate your home and this paint is disturbed, lead will be released into your home. It will silently fall to rest on every surface of your home. It will get into your ventilation system. There is no safe place to hide. Lead dust will find you. There are other ways lead can creep into your safe home: lead in soil, lead in water pipes, glazed bath tubs, stained glass, ceramics, and more. But lead in dust caused by renovations where lead-safe work practices are not followed is the most prevalent route.

Please take a few moments to visit www.epa.gov/lead to find out how to protect yourself from lead poisoning. Encourage your children to wash their hands before eating – especially after handling those packaged Halloween treats from unassuming older homes.

Have a lead-safe Halloween!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Committed to Environmental Education On and Off the Job

By Kim Bartels

From the very beginning of my career with EPA as a kids’ environmental health coordinator, I have been afforded the opportunity to share my passion for protecting the environment and my love of science with children. This has been a significant aspect of my life personally, because no matter what my job title is, at the heart of it all, I am a scientist and a mom.  I care about this work so much that I’ve even started volunteering at a neighborhood school.  Now in my third year as a science volunteer, coordinating science enrichment activities at my kids’ elementary school, I have had the opportunity to engage hundreds of kids in fun ways of learning about science and the environment.

I coordinate the Science Explorer’s Club and it has become so popular with students that we have expanded it to run the entire school year. We meet once a month before school and have been told by a few parents that their young scientists amazingly bounce out of bed at their earlier time, excited to join us. Roughly 70 young scientists conduct projects and experiments that include spooky science, egg drop challenges, leaning towers of pasta, borax snowflakes, holiday chemistry, forensics, bubbleology, candy science, color mixology, fun with dry ice, and a liquid nitrogen demonstration.


As I became known for my enthusiasm for science and all things sustainable, my involvement with other enrichment activities expanded to include the Science Fair and an annual week-long Waste Free Lunch Challenge, and I am now a mentor for the school’s Green Team. This advisory team of 5th and 6th grade students serves as recycle ambassadors for their assigned classrooms, coordinates special recycling efforts for a few hard-to-recycle lunchroom items and sponsors a month-long clothing reuse/recycling collection drive as an Earth Day activity and a fundraiser.

Beyond the importance of fostering kids’ enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and math, another reason I love my volunteer work is the kids’ priceless reactions. My daughter recently shared with me that if she could have one wish granted from a genie and she couldn’t wish for more wishes (obviously), she would wish for the whole world to reuse and recycle EVERYTHING. After hearing that my son gets to do a lot of science experiments at home, his classmate expressed that she wished she could come to our house for more science. Probably one of the best declarations came from my 4 year old “assistant,” who attends all of my volunteer gigs, as she announced, “Mom, I just want to do science with you FOREVER!” My immediate response: Um, yes please!

About the author: Kim Bartels is the Region 8 Children’s Environmental Health Coordinator.  She has a BA in Biology and a MS in Environmental Science.  She enjoys spending time outdoors with her family of five, finding creative ways to show her children how the world can be their very own science laboratory.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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EPA: Launching a New Era of State, Tribal, Local and International Partnerships

Our work with state, tribal, local and international partners forms an “environmental enterprise” that is critical to advancing environmental and human health protection across the country and the globe.  As captured in our FY14-FY18 Strategic Plan, our New Era of State, Tribal, Local and International Partnerships is a vital pillar among our Cross-Agency Strategies. I thank everyone at EPA for working in collaboration with our partners – governors, tribal leaders, environmental and agricultural commissioners, city and county leaders, and so many others. This spring, I asked EPA employees to share their best practices, innovative solutions and successes in building partnerships. There are so many successes I learned about, ranging from the routine to multi-faceted and complicated matters.  Here are a handful of successes that I’d like to highlight.

State, Local and Other Partners Protecting School Indoor Air Quality group#– Nearly 56 million people spend their days inside elementary and secondary schools in the US. Since the mid-1990s, EPA’s Indoor Environments Division (IED) has supported states, schools and school districts in their work to improve indoor air quality in schools and protect the health of their students and staff.

In 2012, the IED schools team launched the School Health and Indoor Environments Leadership Development (SHIELD) Network, a dynamic collaboration of more than 80 leaders from school districts, state and local governments and other partners committed to improving IAQ in schools. SHIELD events have resulted in thousands of school district decision makers trained to make their school indoor environments healthier, cleaner and safer places.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Children’s Health: A link between Allergies, Asthma and School Attendance

By Marcia Anderson

 Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Many schools have shown a high incidence of students missing valuable school days due to asthma and allergies. In many of the same schools that report a high incidence of absenteeism, we have also found cockroach infestations in cafeterias, storage closets and teacher break rooms.

Is there a relationship between cockroach exposure, allergies and asthma?

Most people with asthma have allergic responses in their bronchial tubes when they breathe in particles of the right size and shape and composed of materials recognized by their immune system. Exposure to things like mold, cat dander, ragweed, pollen, and rodent and cockroach droppings can elicit an allergic reaction.

The proteins in cockroach feces and their decomposing bodies are of just the right size to be lifted into the air, inhaled and recognized by the immune system as a signal to make an allergic reaction in some people. This is asthma. Airborne cockroach allergens will stick to particles, like dust, that quickly settle onto dust-trapping fabrics found on upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains. Activities like vacuuming, or even walking may stir up these allergens.

An asthma attack can happen when a student is exposed to “asthma triggers.” One child’s triggers can be very different from those of another child or an adult with asthma.

What Causes the Allergic Reaction? The job of the immune system is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. This protects us from dangerous diseases. People with allergies have supersensitive immune systems that react when they inhale, swallow or touch certain substances such as pollen or dust that contain the allergens. Some people are born with allergies. Others seem to acquire these allergic sensitivities as they grow older.

Asthma Studies: A 2014 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed marked geographic differences in allergen exposure and sensitivity in inner city children. Early exposure to cockroach allergens can actually cause asthma to develop in preschool aged children. Inhaling particles from cockroaches can cause coughing and wheezing in babies less than 12 months of age. A lack of understanding about asthma and its treatment may cause further risk of severe, undertreated asthma. In many low income communities, coughing and wheezing are accepted as part of normal growing up and medical care may not be sought because it isn’t considered necessary, or it is too difficult to access.

A National Institutes of Health research project demonstrated a definitive connection between income and the severity of asthma in the population (http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/sept98/niaid-21.htm). The study compared people hospitalized for asthma in six major U.S. cities. It found that the lower the average income, the more frequent the need for hospitalization for severe asthmatic attacks.

Exposure to the things that stimulate asthma like cockroaches, second hand smoke, mold, and air pollution are often greater in poor households. In dwellings where the amount of cockroach allergens are high, exposure is high and the rate of hospitalization for asthma goes up.

Keeping your home and family safe: The EPA recommends that you use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control. Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in buildings. Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention that makes it an economically advantageous approach.

Actions you can take: From cracks to drain traps to groceries, cockroaches can find a way into your home in the oddest of places. Focus on sanitation to eliminate food sources, moisture sources, and harborage for the insects. At least every two to three days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches.

Allergen concentrations are generally highest in kitchens where there is plenty of food and water for cockroaches. Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean, dry and free of clutter. Clean dishes, crumbs and spills right away. Store food in airtight containers. Seal cracks or openings around or inside cabinets to keep cockroaches out.

Next are bedrooms where people inhale the allergens that have settled into bedding. Wash bedding regularly in hot water and remove any unnecessary fabrics like curtains and upholstered furniture. Replace carpeting with smooth flooring that can be damp-mopped.

Controlling Cockroaches. To prevent and treat cockroach infestations in your home use IPM methods first – sanitation followed by low-impact pesticides such as baits, or gels.

EPA offers more information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend reviewing EPA’s Asthma Checklist and exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Children’s Health: A link between Allergies, Asthma and School Attendance

By Marcia Anderson

 Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Cockroach allergens are linked to children’s asthma

Many schools have shown a high incidence of students missing valuable school days due to asthma and allergies. In many of the same schools that report a high incidence of absenteeism, we have also found cockroach infestations in cafeterias, storage closets and teacher break rooms.

Is there a relationship between cockroach exposure, allergies and asthma?

Most people with asthma have allergic responses in their bronchial tubes when they breathe in particles of the right size and shape and composed of materials recognized by their immune system. Exposure to things like mold, cat dander, ragweed, pollen, and rodent and cockroach droppings can elicit an allergic reaction.

The proteins in cockroach feces and their decomposing bodies are of just the right size to be lifted into the air, inhaled and recognized by the immune system as a signal to make an allergic reaction in some people. This is asthma. Airborne cockroach allergens will stick to particles, like dust, that quickly settle onto dust-trapping fabrics found on upholstered furniture, carpets and curtains. Activities like vacuuming, or even walking may stir up these allergens.

An asthma attack can happen when a student is exposed to “asthma triggers.” One child’s triggers can be very different from those of another child or an adult with asthma.

What Causes the Allergic Reaction? The job of the immune system is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. This protects us from dangerous diseases. People with allergies have supersensitive immune systems that react when they inhale, swallow or touch certain substances such as pollen or dust that contain the allergens. Some people are born with allergies. Others seem to acquire these allergic sensitivities as they grow older.

Asthma Studies: A 2014 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed marked geographic differences in allergen exposure and sensitivity in inner city children. Early exposure to cockroach allergens can actually cause asthma to develop in preschool aged children. Inhaling particles from cockroaches can cause coughing and wheezing in babies less than 12 months of age. A lack of understanding about asthma and its treatment may cause further risk of severe, undertreated asthma. In many low income communities, coughing and wheezing are accepted as part of normal growing up and medical care may not be sought because it isn’t considered necessary, or it is too difficult to access.

A National Institutes of Health research project demonstrated a definitive connection between income and the severity of asthma in the population (http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/sept98/niaid-21.htm). The study compared people hospitalized for asthma in six major U.S. cities. It found that the lower the average income, the more frequent the need for hospitalization for severe asthmatic attacks.

Exposure to the things that stimulate asthma like cockroaches, second hand smoke, mold, and air pollution are often greater in poor households. In dwellings where the amount of cockroach allergens are high, exposure is high and the rate of hospitalization for asthma goes up.

Keeping your home and family safe: The EPA recommends that you use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control. Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests in buildings. Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention that makes it an economically advantageous approach.

Actions you can take: From cracks to drain traps to groceries, cockroaches can find a way into your home in the oddest of places. Focus on sanitation to eliminate food sources, moisture sources, and harborage for the insects. At least every two to three days, vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches.

Allergen concentrations are generally highest in kitchens where there is plenty of food and water for cockroaches. Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean, dry and free of clutter. Clean dishes, crumbs and spills right away. Store food in airtight containers. Seal cracks or openings around or inside cabinets to keep cockroaches out.

Next are bedrooms where people inhale the allergens that have settled into bedding. Wash bedding regularly in hot water and remove any unnecessary fabrics like curtains and upholstered furniture. Replace carpeting with smooth flooring that can be damp-mopped.

Controlling Cockroaches. To prevent and treat cockroach infestations in your home use IPM methods first – sanitation followed by low-impact pesticides such as baits, or gels.

EPA offers more information about cockroaches and asthma along with a Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. We also recommend reviewing EPA’s Asthma Checklist and exploring the EPA-sponsored Asthma Community Network website.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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