Buildings with persistent rodent or cockroach infestation can become a problem for some people. Mice and rats have a common property of leaking proteins into their urine which can cause allergic symptoms and contribute to asthma in persons with allergies. Cockroach-derived proteins have also been associated with allergies. The cockroach is probably the most common building-related cause of allergies in the U.S.
Buildings heavily infested with rodents have the potential to build up elevated levels of mouse urinary proteins. The proteins can become airborne when contaminated dusts are stirred into the air. Exposure to mouse urinary proteins has been demonstrated to cause allergies in sensitive persons.
Approximately one-third of laboratory animal workers have occupational allergy to animal dander, and a third of these have symptomatic asthma. One published study found that allergy symptoms including rhinitis, skin rash and chest tightness occurred in 56% of the subjects exposed to laboratory rodents for three months or more. Other studies have shown that exposure to allergens such as mold spores , rodent urines, and dust mites in office buildings is a factor in building-related illness such as hypersensitivity diseases.
Integrated pest management
The development and implementation of an integrated pest management (IPM) program is the key in achieving pesticide use reduction, while providing effective pest control. IPM is a common sense and economical process that consists of seven basic elements:
- Pest identification: the current and/or potential presence of specific pests needs to be determined.
- Preventative actions : structural repairs and maintenance, such as the installation or patching of screens and simple tasks, properly disposing of one's own trash, and removing food items from desks and lockers.
- Establish tolerance and action threshold: a determination that prescribes pest-specific tolerance levels in specific locations throughout the facility above which responsive actions will be taken.
- Monitoring: sticky traps and visual monitoring provide vital information regarding the presence of any pests.
- Response actions: this includes the use of mechanical, biological, and physical treatments and, as a last resort, least toxic pest specific pesticides.
- Public notification and education: a written notification to all parents, guardians, and staff explaining the program and offering them the opportunity to receive detailed information on the IPM program. This includes 48-hour advance notification of any pending pesticide applications required by the Neighbor Notification Law. The entire school community must understand what IPM is, its goals and why everyone has a role to play in the IPM's effectiveness.
- Record keeping: detailed records documenting all aspects of the IPM program must be maintained.
Pesticides should only be considered as a last resort when other methods have proven unsuccessful. Even then, only the least toxic and pest-specific pesticides should be used.
Members should work with their UFT Chapter Leader, principal, Custodial Engineer, and School Foods to implement an IPM program. Some initial steps are outlined in the DOE's IPM policy document.