Air pollution and asthma

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Oct;104(4 Pt 1):717-22. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(99)70280-0.


Asthma is a disease syndrome that has captured a great deal of attention for several years. One of the perplexing aspects to asthma is that the prevalence is increasing in most industrialized countries. The reasons for this widespread increase are largely unknown. Another aspect of industrialization is the persistence of air pollution in urban areas. Because much air pollution is due to vehicles, no solution appears in sight. The topic of this article is the association between air pollution and various signs and symptoms of asthma. Air pollution is convincingly associated with many signs of asthma aggravation. These include pulmonary function decrements, increased bronchial hyperresponsiveness, visits to emergency departments, hospital admissions, increased medication use and symptom reporting, inflammatory changes, interactions between air pollution and allergen challenges, and immune system changes. With the exception of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, common air pollutants have not been shown to cause asthma. It seems prudent for clinicians to counsel their patients about the potential risks of asthma aggravation from common outdoor air pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Ozone / adverse effects
  • Patient Admission
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Sulfur Dioxide / adverse effects


  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Nitrogen Dioxide