Background: Airway allergic diseases, such as bronchial asthma and allergic rhinitis, have increased, especially in urban areas. These diseases are characterized by airway inflammation with enhanced eosinophil activity, and the risk of disease development has been shown to increase with the prevalence of atopy.
Methods: Questionnaires were administered to 426 healthy adult women aged 30-74 years, living in an urban area of Osaka, Japan, to survey individual living environments and airway allergic symptoms such as cough, sputum, and wheezing. Moreover, serum house-dust-mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, [Der p])-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) and serum eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) were examined by radioimmunoassay, and the atopic status (atopic sensitization) and enhanced eosinophil activity were assessed as Der p-specific IgE RAST scores of 2-6 and ECP levels of more than 10 ng/ml, respectively.
Results: Intensive use of electric air conditioners in hot weather (odds ratio: 2.07 [95% CI: 1.11-3.87]) and mold proliferation in the kitchen (2.77 [1.34-5.73]) significantly increased the risk of atopic sensitization. Poor home ventilation and family smoking appeared to be positively but not significantly associated with atopic sensitization. Personal smoking and intensive use of the air conditioner appeared to be positively related to enhanced eosinophil activity. Atopic status showed significant involvement in the development of wheezing, and the development of cough was significantly associated with enhanced eosinophil activity.
Conclusions: The results suggest that some urban styles of living are involved in atopic sensitization and enhanced eosinophil activity in the Japanese urban population, probably due to living conditions, such as indoor dampness and poor home ventilation, caused by tight insulation, which increase exposure to indoor air pollutants, such as respirable mite allergens and tobacco smoke.