World Asthma Day - Do you know your asthma triggers?

Posted: May 3, 2011

In urban areas of Pennsylvania, asthma rates are rising, affecting one out of every ten people. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that, for many individuals, can be controlled by avoiding “triggers” such as cockroaches, mice, certain pesticides and other lung irritants and allergens.

Philadelphia School and Community IPM Partnership (PSCIP) is working to educate residents on reducing allergies and asthma triggers in homes, schools and childcare centers by promoting less-risky methods of controlling indoor pests. According to Michelle Niedermeier, community IPM coordinator, environmental factors that can trigger asthma and asthma symptoms include pests such as cockroaches and mice, pest by-products such as cast skins, feces and urine, as well as some of the pesticides often used to get rid of pests. “Indoor air quality has a big effect on asthma sufferers, especially children who spend most of their time indoors at home, school, and in childcare facilities. One component of indoor air quality includes the levels of pests and pesticide use inside buildings.”

While asthma can be controlled, multiple approaches are needed to limit exposure to allergens and other substances that can worsen asthma. An IPM approach to pest control can effectively reduce pest populations while simultaneously reducing pesticide exposure in indoor environments. “Research shows that single steps are rarely sufficient,” Niedermeier explains. “By using preventative practices and systematic monitoring of buildings and surrounding grounds, IPM can stop a pest infestation before it gets out of hand.”

Some tips to keep asthma and pests at bay safely in your home:

• Keep living areas clean and uncluttered.

• Keep yards and vacant lots maintained by mowing and regular trash pickup.

• Repair holes and cracks in walls, windows, and screens.

• Seal routes of pest entry in and around windows, pipes and gaps in walls by using caulking, copper mesh, or other pest-proof materials.

• Share information with neighbors - pests do not stay in one place.

• If you decide to use a pesticide, read the details on the label first. Make sure the pest you want to control is listed there. Remember – the label is the law.

• Choose the least-toxic product - one that says “Caution”, NOT “Warning” or “Danger”.

• Avoid home sprays and foggers – these product fine aerosol mists can easily be breathed and also coat indoor surfaces with pesticides.

• Use any pesticide dusts, gels or baits properly, according to label directions.

• Never use illegal pesticides. The product should have an EPA registration number.

• Find a reputable and licensed pest control specialist, and ask for IPM.

• Keep all pesticides out of reach of children and keep the poison control center number handy, 1-800-222-1222.

For more information on asthma and other public health issues related to pests, go to web site You can also download PA IPM’s Asthma, Pests and Pesticides brochure at

In addition, health care providers, community asthma coalition members and others can attend the EPA’s National Asthma Forum June 9-10 in Washington DC. Topics include discussing the most effective community-based strategies for improving asthma program outcomes, building successful and sustainable asthma care programs, and extending the reach and impact of great programs to deliver high-quality asthma care to everyone who needs it. For more information on the conference, go to web site

The Pennsylvania IPM Program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting integrated pest management in both agricultural and urban settings. For more information, contact the program at (814) 865-2839, or Web site