Dust mite, cockroach, cat, and dog allergen concentrations in homes of asthmatic children in the northeastern United States: impact of socioeconomic factors and population density

Brian P Leaderer, Kathleen Belanger, Elizabeth Triche, Theodore Holford, Diane R Gold, Young Kim, Thomas Jankun, Ping Ren, Jean-ellen McSharry Je, Thomas A E Platts-Mills, Martin D Chapman, Michael B Bracken
Environmental Health Perspectives 2002, 110 (4): 419-25
Home exposures to aeroallergens are an important environmental factor in allergic sensitization and in the development and exacerbation of asthma. We assessed variations in home concentrations of dust mite, cockroach, cat, and dog allergens in dust collected in the main living areas of asthmatics' homes by family income, mother's education, dwelling type, population density, household population density, and ethnicity in Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts. Dust samples were collected at the time of home interview in 999 homes as part of an ongoing longitudinal birth cohort study of 1,002 infants and their asthmatic siblings. The analysis employed lower and upper cut points for group 1 dust mite (> or = 2.0 microg/g and > or = 10 microg/g), cockroach (> or = 1.0 U/g and > or = 4.0 U/g), cat (> or = 1.0 microg/g and > or = 8.0 ug/g), and dog (> or = 2.0 microg/g and > or = 10.0 microg/g) allergens. Subject residences were geocoded to assess population density from the U.S. Census, and multiple logistic regression was used to control for confounding. The portion of homes at the lower cut point for dust mite, cockroach, cat, and dog allergens were 46.9%, 24.9%, 42.2%, and 35.6%, respectively; the upper cut point for each of the allergens was reached in 22.4%, 13.4%, 21.0%, and 22.9% of the homes, respectively. In all, 86.0% of the homes had at least one allergen at the lower cut point, and 58.0% had at least one allergen at the upper cut point. Forty-nine percent of the homes had two or more allergens at the lower cut point, and 19.7% had two or more allergens at the upper cut point. Higher education of the mother, higher household income, living in a single-family home in a less densely populated area with fewer people per room, and being a white household were associated with elevated dust mite, cat, and dog allergens and low cockroach allergen. In contrast, low income, living in a multifamily home in a high population density area with a higher occupancy rate per room, and being a Hispanic or black household were associated with elevated cockroach allergens and low concentrations of dust mite, cat, and dog allergens. Although the presence of an individual allergen is more likely associated with one or more socioeconomic or ethnic factors, most homes typically have multiple allergen burdens in excess of concentrations thought to be associated with sensitization and exacerbation of asthma. Mite and cockroach allergens have distinct and opposite associations with socioeconomic factors and population density.

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