Diesel fumes and the rising prevalence of atopy: an urban legend?

Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2003 Mar;3(2):146-52. doi: 10.1007/s11882-003-0027-4.


Recently, the incidence of allergic diseases has increased in most industrialized countries of the world. Persistent exposure to particulate air pollution from motor vehicles has been implicated as one of the factors that is responsible for the observed increased prevalence of atopy. Epidemiologic studies conducted in different parts of the world have demonstrated an important association between ambient levels of motor vehicle traffic emissions and increased symptoms of asthma and rhinitis. Additionally, recent human and animal laboratory-based studies have shown that particulate toxic pollutants, and in particular diesel exhaust particles (DEP), can enhance allergic inflammation and induce the development of allergic immune responses. In this article, our current understanding of the mechanisms by which pollutants such as DEPs enhance the underlying allergic inflammatory response is reviewed, and the evidence that supports the causative link between particulate air pollution from motor vehicles and increasing allergic diseases is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / chemically induced*
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vehicle Emissions / adverse effects*


  • Allergens
  • Vehicle Emissions