Exposure to motor vehicle traffic and allergic sensitization. The Swiss Study on Air Pollution and Lung Diseases in Adults (SAPALDIA) Team

Epidemiology. 2000 Jul;11(4):450-6. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200007000-00015.


We examined the association between the presence of an allergic sensitization and seasonal allergic diseases or symptoms and the exposure to road traffic in Basel, Switzerland. Traffic counts at the domiciles of subjects ranged from 24 to 32,504 cars per 24 hours, with a median of 1,624. To investigate the relation of road traffic and allergies, we matched the data of the traffic inventory of Basel with those of the 820 participants of the SAPALDIA study (Swiss Study on Air Pollution and Lung Diseases in Adults), ages 18-60 years, who had completed a detailed respiratory health questionnaire and had undergone allergy testing (skin prick tests and serologic examinations). We observed a positive association with a sensitization to pollen that was most pronounced among persons with a duration of residence of at least 10 years. The odds ratios (adjusted for educational level, smoking behavior, number of siblings, age, sex, and family history of atopy) for cars, contrasting four exposure categories with the lowest quartile as referent category, were 1.99 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.91-4.38], 2.47 (95% CI = 1.06-5.73), and 2.83 (95% CI = 1.26-6.31). These results suggest that living on busy roads is associated with a higher risk for a sensitization to pollen and could possibly be interpreted as an indication for interactions between pollen and air pollutants. We did not, however, find a similar relation between motor vehicle traffic and hay fever or seasonal allergic symptoms, and we saw no trend that increasing traffic exposure was associated with a rise in sensitization rates to indoor allergens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Risk Assessment
  • Urban Population
  • Vehicle Emissions / adverse effects*


  • Vehicle Emissions