Objective: Urban air samples contain numerous irregular respirable black particles, which may be airborne tire fragments. A major component of tires is natural latex. Proteins of natural latex can act as adjuvants and as antigens capable of eliciting immediate hypersensitivity, making their presence in particulate air pollution an important clinical issue.
Methods: Particulate air pollutants were collected by volumetric sampling devices and characterized by optical microscopy, chemical solubility tests, and mass spectrometry. Extracts of rubber tire fragments were tested for elutable latex antigens by antibody inhibition assays.
Results: Identification of latex in air samples and milled material from automobile tires was supported by mass spectrometry results and was further confirmed by physical appearance and chemical solubility studies. Competitive immunoassay confirmed the presence of extractable latex antigens from rubber tire fragments.
Conclusions: Latex antigens are extractable from rubber tire fragments, which are abundant in urban air samples. Given the adjuvant and sensitizing effects of latex, these airborne particles could contribute, through direct and indirect mechanisms, to the increase in both latex sensitization and asthma. The impact of these particles should be considered in the issue of morbidity and mortality rates associated with respiratory diseases and air pollution.