If house dust mite allergen (Der p I) is an important cause of asthma, there should be a direct relationship between level of exposure to this allergen and asthma severity. To examine this, we studied six large random samples of children in different regions of New South Wales, Australia. We measured recent wheeze by questionnaire, airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) by histamine inhalation test and sensitization to house dust mites by skin prick tests. Current asthma was defined as the presence of recent wheeze and AHR. We measured Der p I levels in the beds of approximately 80 children in each region. In regions where Der p I levels were high, more children were sensitized to house dust mites, and these children had significantly more AHR and recent wheeze. After adjusting for sensitization to other allergens, we found that the risk of house dust mite-sensitized children having current asthma doubled with every doubling of Der p I level. There was a modest correlation between AHR and Der p I exposure in individuals (r = 0.23, p < 0.03). These data suggest that house dust mite allergens are an important cause of childhood asthma and that reducing exposure to these allergens could have a large public health benefit in terms of asthma prevention.