Air pollution and its effect on the upper respiratory tract and on allergic rhinosinusitis

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1996 Feb;114(2):239-41. doi: 10.1016/S0194-59989670174-2.


The nose is the first organ system encountered by inhaled air and its associated pollutants. Pollutants are deposited during inspiration through the nose. They accumulate on mucus and are absorbed in the nasal mucosa, resulting in a number of deleterious effects on the body. Irritation of the nose and sinus from these pollutants, resulting from direct contact with the nasal mucosa, leads to inflammation, edema, swelling, and blocked sinuses. The result is acute and chronic sinusitis. Absorption of these chemicals into the body produces systemic effects. Their effect on the immune system, although subtle, leads to dramatic changes in the allergic diathesis. The T suppressor cell is the most sensitive cell of the immune system and the first to be affected by exposure to chemical pollutants. Diminution of the suppressor activity and the relative increase in helper activity in turn lead to increased immunoglobulin production and the manifestation of allergy symptoms. The underlying biochemical reaction is caused by the effects of pollutants on the T suppressor cell. Patients with existing allergies become brittle and difficult to treat with the exacerbation of the allergic diathesis. Removal of these chemical pollutants from the body as quickly as possible is essential for effective treatment of this problem. Dietary antioxidants help reduce the oxidizing effect of the pollutants and act as conjugators to remove the pollutants from the body.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Air Pollutants / pharmacokinetics
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Nasal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Nasal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Nose Diseases / etiology*
  • Nose Diseases / immunology
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / etiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / immunology
  • Sinusitis / etiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology


  • Air Pollutants
  • Antioxidants