Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 88, Issue 1, pp 14–29 | Cite as

Are Building-Level Characteristics Associated with Indoor Allergens in the Household?

  • Lindsay RosenfeldEmail author
  • Ginger L. Chew
  • Rima Rudd
  • Karen Emmons
  • Luis Acosta
  • Matt Perzanowski
  • Dolores Acevedo-García


Building-level characteristics are structural factors largely beyond the control of those who live in them. We explored whether building-level characteristics and indoor allergens in the household are related. We examined the relationship between building-level characteristics and indoor allergens: dust mite, cat, cockroach, and mouse. Building-level characteristics measured were presence of pests (seeing cockroaches and rodents), building type (public housing, buildings zoned commercially and residentially, and building size), and building condition (building age and violations). Allergen cutpoints were used for categorical analyses and defined as follows: dust mite: >0.25 μg/g; cat: >1 μg/g; cockroach: >1 U/g; mouse: >1.6 μg/g. In fully adjusted linear analyses, neither dust mite nor cat allergen were statistically significantly associated with any building-level characteristics. Cockroach allergen was associated with the presence of cockroaches (2.07; 95% CI, 1.23, 3.49) and living in public housing (2.14; 95% CI, 1.07, 4.31). Mouse allergen was associated with the presence of rodents (1.70; 95% CI, 1.29, 2.23), and building size: living in a low-rise (<8 floors; 0.60; 95% CI, 0.42, 0.87) or high-rise (8 + floors; 0.50; 95% CI, 0.29, 0.88; compared with house/duplex). In fully adjusted logistic analyses, cat allergen was statistically significantly associated with living in a high-rise (6.29; 95% CI, 1.51, 26.21; compared with a house/duplex). Mouse allergen was associated with living in public housing (6.20; 95% CI, 1.01, 37.95) and building size: living in a low-rise (0.16; 95% CI, 0.05, 0.52) or high-rise (0.06; 95% CI, 0.01, 0.50; compared with a house/duplex). Issues concerning building size and public housing may be particularly critical factors in reducing asthma morbidity. We suggest that future research explore the possible improvement of these factors through changes to building code and violations adherence, design standards, and incentives for landlords.


Asthma Buildings Building size Indoor allergens Public housing 



We thank the Puerto Rican Asthma Project research participants and staff for their time and effort. We also thank Jeff Blossom for creating variables and maps in ArcGIS 9.2 and Amy Cohen for her SAS programming expertise. This work was supported by NIEHS grants R01 ES 10922 and P30 ES 009089.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsay Rosenfeld
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Ginger L. Chew
    • 2
  • Rima Rudd
    • 3
  • Karen Emmons
    • 3
    • 4
  • Luis Acosta
    • 2
  • Matt Perzanowski
    • 2
  • Dolores Acevedo-García
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute on Urban Health Research, Bouvé College of Health SciencesNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Dana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA

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