Environmental exposures and mechanisms in allergy and asthma development

J Clin Invest. 2019 Apr 1;129(4):1504-1515. doi: 10.1172/JCI124612. Epub 2019 Feb 11.


Environmental exposures interplay with human host factors to promote the development and progression of allergic diseases. The worldwide prevalence of allergic disease is rising as a result of complex gene-environment interactions that shape the immune system and host response. Research shows an association between the rise of allergic diseases and increasingly modern Westernized lifestyles, which are characterized by increased urbanization, time spent indoors, and antibiotic usage. These environmental changes result in increased exposure to air and traffic pollution, fungi, infectious agents, tobacco smoke, and other early-life and lifelong risk factors for the development and exacerbation of asthma and allergic diseases. It is increasingly recognized that the timing, load, and route of allergen exposure affect allergic disease phenotypes and development. Still, our ability to prevent allergic diseases is hindered by gaps in understanding of the underlying mechanisms and interaction of environmental, viral, and allergen exposures with immune pathways that impact disease development. This Review highlights epidemiologic and mechanistic evidence linking environmental exposures to the development and exacerbation of allergic airway responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence


  • Air Pollutants