Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

Academic Partner:

Harvard School of Public Health
Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D.

Community Partner:

Boston Housing Authority

Boston street

Project Description

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health collaborated with the Boston Public Housing Authority and the Committee for Boston Public Housing to quantify the reduction of pesticide exposure as a result of the Boston Public Housing Authority's Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.

Families living in Boston Public Housing developments rank widespread insect infestation among their highest concerns. Residents and building supervisors use significant amounts of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides to kill the pests in households and auxiliary buildings. Health concerns related to continued pesticide exposures of residents, particularly children, led the Boston Housing Association to begin implementing IPM programs in some of their neighborhoods. These programs combine sanitation, physical barriers, and, as a last resort, the least harmful pesticides into a program that reduces the pesticide burden on residents and their environment.

The partnership worked with the community living in the Bromley Heath development to find out whether IPM effectively reduced human exposure to pesticides in public housing communities.

The project partners:

  • Assessed community-wide childhood residential exposure to common pesticides in children ages 3-11.
  • Conducted a study of 20 households that revealed the most commonly detected pesticides were pyrethroid pesticides, particularly permethrin and cypermethrin. The researchers also detected organophosphate pesticides that are no longer available on the market, but in significantly lower levels than pyrethroids. All 20 families showed some pesticide contamination in their households, and pesticides were commonly detected in the living room and in children's bedrooms.
  • Identified and characterized important exposure pathways in children with elevated exposures.
  • Implemented the Integrated Pest Management program.
  • Quantified the reduction of pesticide exposure in the housing community as a result of the intervention.

To facilitate wider implementation of the Integrated Pest Management program, the partners disseminated outcomes to other Boston Housing Authority community residents. An evaluation determined that this collaborative process reached the project’s educational and research objectives.

Selected Publications: