Quantitative measurement of airborne cockroach allergen in New York City apartments

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We designed and tested a sampling and analysis system for quantitative measurement of airborne cockroach allergen with sufficient sensitivity for residential exposure assessment. Integrated 1-week airborne particle samples were collected at 10–15 LPM in 19 New York City apartments in which an asthmatic child who was allergic to cockroach allergen resided. Four simultaneous air samples were collected in each home: at heights of 0.3 and 1 m in the child’s bedroom and in the kitchen. Extracts of air samples were analyzed by ELISA for the cockroach allergen Bla g2, modified by amplifying the colorimetric signal generated via use of AMPLI-Q detection system (DAKO Corporation, Carpinteria, CA, USA). Settled dust samples were quantified by conventional ELISA. Of the homes where cockroach allergen was detected in settled dust, Bla g2 also was detected in 87% and 93% of air samples in the bedroom and kitchen, respectively. Airborne Bla g2 levels were highly correlated within and between the bedroom and kitchen locations (P < 0.001). Expressed as picogram per cubic meter, the room average geometric mean for Bla g2 concentrations was 1.9 pg/m3 (95% CI 0.63, 4.57) and 3.8 pg/m3 (95% CI 1.35, 9.25) in bedrooms and kitchens, respectively. This method offers an attractive supplement to settled dust sampling for cockroach allergen exposure health studies.

Practical Implications

Until now, cockroach allergen exposures have usually been assessed by collection and analysis of settled dust, on the assumption that airborne cockroach allergen cannot be reliably measured. In this study, a sensitive and quantitative method for measuring indoor airborne exposures to cockroach allergens involving a 7-day integrated total suspended particulate (TSP) sample collected at approximately 10–15 l/min was developed. Investigators are now empowered with an alternative exposure assessment method to supplement their studies and the understanding of allergen aerodynamics in the homes of children with asthma. We report airborne cockroach allergen in apartments, suggesting an ongoing burden of inhalation exposure.

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