Environmental chemicals relevant for respiratory hypersensitivity: the indoor environment

Toxicol Lett. 1996 Aug;86(2-3):155-62. doi: 10.1016/0378-4274(96)03685-5.


The allergenic constituents of non-industrial indoor environments are predominantly found in the biologic fraction. Several reports have related biological particles such as mites and their excreta, dander from pets and other furred animals, fungi and bacteria to allergic manifestations including respiratory hypersensitivity among the occupants of buildings. Also, bacterial cell-wall components and the spores of toxin-producing moulds may contribute to the induction of hypersensitivity, but the relevance for human health is not yet determined. The knowledge regarding hypersensitivity and asthmatic reactions after exposure to chemical agents is primarily based on data from occupational settings with much higher exposure levels than usually found in non-industrial indoor environments. However, there is evidence that indoor exposure to tobacco smoke, some volatile organic compounds (VOC) and various combustion products (either by using unvented stoves or from outdoor sources) can be related to asthmatic symptoms. In some susceptible individuals, the development of respiratory hypersensitivity or elicitation of asthmatic symptoms may also be related to the indiscriminate use of different household products followed by exposure to compounds such as diisocyanates, organic acid anhydrides, formaldehyde, styrene and hydroquinone. At present, the contribution of the indoor environment both to the development of respiratory hypersensitivity and for triggering asthmatic symptoms is far from elucidated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Hazardous Substances / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons / adverse effects
  • Hydrocarbons / immunology
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology


  • Allergens
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Hydrocarbons