The incidence of allergic diseases in most industrialized countries has increased. Although the exact mechanisms behind this rapid increase in prevalence remain uncertain, a variety of air pollutants have been attracting attention as one causative factor. Epidemiological and toxicological research suggests a causative relationship between air pollution and the increased incidence of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and other allergic disorders. These include ozone, nitrogen dioxide and, especially particulate matter, produced by traffic-related and industrial activities. Strong epidemiological evidence supports a relationship between air pollution and the exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Recent studies have suggested that air pollutants play a role in the development of asthma and allergies. Researchers have elucidated the mechanisms whereby these pollutants induce adverse effects; they appear to affect the balance between antioxidant pathways and airway inflammation. Gene polymorphisms involved in antioxidant pathways can modify responses to air pollution exposure. While the characterization and monitoring of pollutant components currently dictates pollution control policies, it will be necessary to identify susceptible subpopulations to target therapy/prevention of pollution-induced respiratory diseases.
Keywords: Air pollutants; Antioxidant; Asthma; Particulate matter; Vehicle emissions.