The Social Worker and The Cockroach by Melinda Johnson

roach(“Asthma Triggers: Gain Control”, 2016)

For social workers, cockroaches can be a serious issue faced by many of their clients who are already at an increased risk for health issues. In my community, I have and am currently working with clients experiencing problems with cockroaches.

Where are they?

Cockroaches can be found in any home that has food and humidity[3]. That’s right! The cockroach’s favorite place to live is the kitchen or bathroom because food and water are available in these locations[3]. The worst cockroach infestations typically occur in apartment buildings or multi-unit housing[3]. When a cockroach outbreak occurs, the entire building or housing complex must be treated and all occupants must follow treatment recommendations [3].

As social workers, we often conduct home visits when we are working with clients. Many of the clients that we work with are of lower SES and live in apartments or multi-unit housing. This puts some clients we work with at greater risk of experiencing a cockroach infestation.

What are the health impacts of cockroaches? Cockroaches leave behind bits and pieces (shells, body parts, saliva, and feces) as they travel around kitchens and bathrooms[3]. These bits and pieces can cause asthma attacks[3]. Cockroaches also leave behind a stinky smell and carry germs that they get from human materials, which can cause gastrointestinal and respiratory illness[3].

As social workers, we offer service (assistance with solving problems) to our clients. How can social workers assist clients in getting rid of cockroaches?

How do we get rid of these visitors? Spraying and bug bombs can be used to treat cockroaches however these products contain chemicals that are a toxic health hazard[3]. They can also trigger asthma attacks and cause developmental disabilities in exposed humans[3].

A sustainable/nontoxic way to get rid of cockroaches- #1 Prevention. Check your items before bringing them in the home[2]. Seal cracks and gaps in your kitchen, bathroom, windows, and doors[2]. #2 Sanitation. Do not provide cockroaches food, water, or shelter[2]. Clean any crumbs or food from shelving or floors, wash dishes after preparing and eating meals, and clean under large kitchen appliances and furniture [2]. Do not leave pet food out overnight and seal pet food containers[2]. Keep the kitty box clean, if applicable [2]. Fix any leaking plumbing, sinks, or fish tanks[2]. And, get rid of clutter [2]! #3 Trapping. Cockroach traps can be used to apprehend the cockroaches[2]. The best places to put the traps are in corners, under sinks, in cabinets, basements, and floor drains[2].

In conclusion, many of our clients do not have the resources to pay for an exterminator and using pesticides to get rid of cockroaches can add a second layer of health risk to vulnerable clients. Social workers can use the strategies listed above to work with clients, family members, cleaning companies, in home care providers to mitigate cockroach infestations in a nontoxic way.

home safe


[1]Asthma Triggers: Gain Control. (2016, April 27). Retrieved January 24, 2017, from

2]Chapter 4: Disease Vectors and Pests. (2009, December 08). Retrieved January 24, 2017, from

[3]N. (n.d.). National Center for Healthy Housing. Retrieved January 24, 2017, from




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