Pesticides in urban multiunit dwellings: Hazard identification using classification and regression tree (CART) analysis

Rhona Julien, Jonathan I. Levy, Gary Adamkiewicz, Russ Hauser, John D. Spengler, Robert A. Canales, H. Patricia Hynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Many units in public housing or other low-income urban dwellings may have elevated pesticide residues, given recurring infestation, but it would be logistically and economically infeasible to sample a large number of units to identify highly exposed households to design interventions. Within this study, our aim was to devise a low-cost approach to identify homes in public housing with high levels of pesticide residues, using information that would allow the housing authority and residents to determine optimal strategies to reduce household exposures. As part of the Healthy Public Housing Initiative, we collected environmental samples from 42 public housing apartments in Boston, MA, in 2002 and 2003 and gathered housing characteristics; for example, household demographics and self-reported pesticide use information, considering information available with and without a home visit. Focusing on five organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides, we used classification and regression tree analysis (CART) to disaggregate the pesticide concentration data into homogenous subsamples according to housing characteristics, which allowed us to identify households and associated networks impacted by the mismanagement of pesticides. The CART analysis demonstrated reasonable sensitivity and specificity given more extensive household information but generally poor performance using only information available without a home visit. Apartments with high concentrations of cyfluthrin, a pyrethroid of interest given that it is a restricted use pesticide, were more likely to be associated with Hispanic residents who resided in their current apartment for more than 5 yr, consistent with documented pesticide usage patterns. We conclude that using CART as an exploratory technique to better understand the home characteristics associated with elevated pesticide levels may be a viable approach for risk management in large multiunit housing developments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1297-1302
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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