Enhanced in vivo IgE production and T cell polarization toward the type 2 phenotype in association with indoor exposure to VOC: results of the LARS study

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2001 Dec;204(4):211-21. doi: 10.1078/1438-4639-00100.


The association between indoor exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOC), prevalence of allergic sensitization and cytokine secretion profile of peripheral T cells was studied in 3 year old children of the LARS study (Leipzig Allergy Risk Children Study) to investigate the role of VOC exposure as a risk factor for the development of atopic disease. Indoor VOC exposure was measured over a period of 4 weeks in infants' bedrooms using a passive sampling system. Specific IgE antibodies to food, indoor and outdoor allergens were measured by the Pharmacia CAP system and correlated to VOC exposure (n = 120). In addition, cytokine producing peripheral T cells (interleukin(IL)-4, interferon(IFN)-gamma) were measured in a subgroup of 28 children by means of intracellular cytokine staining. For the first time we were able to show that exposure to alkanes (C6, C9, C10) and aromatic compounds (toluene, o-xylene, m + p-xylene, 2-, 3- and 4-ethyl-toluene, chlorobenzene) may contribute to the risk of allergic sensitization to the food allergens milk and egg white (Odds ratios between 5.7 and 11.2). Moreover, significantly reduced numbers of CD3+/CD8+ peripheral T cells were found in children exposed to alkanes (C9-C13), naphthalene and chlorobenzene. Exposure to benzene, ethylbenzene and chlorobenzene was associated with higher percentages of IL-4 producing CD3+ T cells. Both an increase in IL-4 producing type 2 T cells and a reduction of IFN-gamma producing type 1 T cells may contribute to a type 2 skewed memory in response to allergens. Therefore, we suggest exposure to VOCs in association with allergic sensitization to be mediated by a T cell polarization toward the type 2 phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Cell Polarity / drug effects
  • Cell Polarity / immunology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / physiopathology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / biosynthesis*
  • Male
  • Organic Chemicals / adverse effects*
  • Phenotype
  • Risk Factors
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Volatilization


  • Cytokines
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Immunoglobulin E