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Expert Opinion

Cockroaches: Nothing To Sneeze At!

By Dr. Stuart Mitchell

A saying that has been around since the early 1800’s; “nothing to sneeze at“ designates something that deserves serious attention. Cockroach infestations within inhabited structures are certainly nothing to sneeze at, or are they?

“Cockroaches are one of the most significant and objectionable pests found in apartments, homes, food-handling establishments, hospitals, and health care facilities worldwide. Indoor species, especially the German cockroach, exploit conditions associated with high-density human populations and impoverished living conditions.”
- Public Health Significance of Urban Pests, 2008, WHO

Within low-income housing, pestiferous cockroaches are extremely offensive. In one study, greater than 80% of residents within apartments lacking infestations felt cockroach presence was worse than poor security, poor heating, and poor repairs. Comparatively, House mouse infestations ranked slightly worse.


In recent studies, cockroach feces are confirmed to be a significant promoter of human allergies and asthma. Exposure sensitization strongly correlates to bedrooms as residents spend considerable time within such spaces. Environmentally persistent, dust samples collected in kitchens and on mattresses have tested positive for cockroach protein allergens long after infestation elimination.

Credit: CDC

U.S. studies of asthmatic children residing within the inner-city determined that a higher level exposure to cockroach allergens resulted in more frequent asthma symptoms and a 3.4 times greater rate of hospitalization. Evidence suggests that exposure to cockroach allergens is a greater risk factor for asthma morbidity vs. dust mite, cat, or dog allergens.

On the wire

Reporting for Disaster Duty—Cockroaches?
From Fortune

Where Cockroach Legs and Snow White Have Something in Common
From The New York Times

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