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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 April; 108(4): 301–307.
PMCID: PMC1638021
Research Article

Socioeconomic predictors of high allergen levels in homes in the greater Boston area.


In the United States, childhood asthma morbidity and prevalence rates are the highest in less affluent urban minority communities. More than 80% of childhood asthmatics are allergic to one or more inhalant allergens. We evaluated whether socioeconomic status was associated with a differential in the levels and types of indoor home allergens. Dust samples for an ELISA allergen assay were collected from the homes of 499 families as part of a metropolitan Boston, Massachusetts, longitudinal birth cohort study of home allergens and asthma in children with a parental history of asthma or allergy. The proportion of homes with maximum home allergen levels in the highest category was 42% for dust mite allergen (> or = 10 microg/g Der p 1 or Der f 1), 13% for cockroach allergen (> or = 2 U/g Bla g 1 or Bla g 2), 26% for cat allergen (> or = 8 microg/g Fel d 1), and 20% for dog allergen (> or = 10 microg/g Can f 1). Homes in the high-poverty area (> 20% of the population below the poverty level) were more likely to have high cockroach allergen levels than homes in the low-poverty area [51 vs. 3%; OR, 33; 95% confidence interval (CI), 12-90], but less likely to have high levels of dust mite allergen (16 vs. 53%; OR, 0.2; CI, 0.1-0.4). Lower family income, less maternal education, and race/ethnicity (black or Hispanic vs. white) were also associated with a lower risk of high dust mite levels and a greater risk of high cockroach allergen levels. Within a single U.S. metropolitan area we found marked between-community differences in the types of allergens present in the home, but not necessarily in the overall burden of allergen exposure.

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