Background: Photochemical air pollutants are commonly thought to be implicated in the gradual increase in the prevalence of atopy. However, no epidemiological data are available.
Methods: To clarify this issue, we performed a cross-sectional epidemiological survey in 2604 primary school children, 10 and 11 years old, living in seven communities among which some have the highest photochemical exposure in France. The mean levels of the main gaseous air pollutants (SO2, NO2 and O3) were measured during a 2-month period in 1993. The protocol included a standardized questionnaire, skin prick tests to common aeroallergens and in the atopic children, collection of a sample of mattress dust to measure group 1 mite allergens. Atopy was only defined on the basis of the skin prick tests.
Results: Percentage of positive skin tests and the number of positive skin tests were similar in the different communities looked at. The distribution of dust samples with a group 1 allergen level greater than 2 microg/g dust, was also similar. Logistic regression analysis including potential confounding factors, as well as the mean level of air pollutants, did not demonstrate any association between atopy and mean SO2, NO2 and O3 levels.
Conclusion: The increase in photochemical air pollutants is unlikely to be a major determinant for the recent increase in the prevalence of atopy.