The role of outdoor air pollution and climatic changes on the rising trends in respiratory allergy

Respir Med. 2001 Jul;95(7):606-11. doi: 10.1053/rmed.2001.1112.


Evidence suggests that allergic respiratory diseases such as hay fever and bronchial asthma have become more common world-wide in the last two decades, and the reasons for this increase are still largely unknown. A major responsible factor could be outdoor air pollution, derived from cars and other vehicles. Studies have demonstrated that urbanization and high levels of vehicle emissions and westernized lifestyle is correlated with the increasing frequency of pollen-induced respiratory allergy. People who live in urban areas tend to be more affected by pollen-induced respiratory allergy than those from of rural areas. Pollen allergy has been one of the most frequent models used to study the interrelationship between air pollution and respiratory allergic diseases. Pollen grains or plant-derived paucimicronic components carry allergens that can produce allergic symptoms. They may also interact with air pollution (particulate matter, ozone) in producing these effects. There is evidence that air pollutants may promote airway sensitization by modulating the allergenicity of airborne allergens. Furthermore, airway mucosal damage and impaired mucociliary clearance induced by air pollution may facilitate the access of inhaled allergens to the cells of the immune system. In addition, vegetation reacts with air pollution and environmental conditions and influence the plant allergenicity. Several factors influence this interaction, including type of air pollutants, plant species, nutrient balance, climatic factors, degree of airway sensitization and hyperresponsiveness of exposed subjects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Climate*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Pollen / adverse effects
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / etiology*
  • Urban Health


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E