AIRALLERG (2000 – 2003)

Effects of outdoor and indoor air pollution on the development of allergic disease in children

Study objectives:
To investigate the effects of outdoor and indoor air pollution on the development of allergic disease in children.

Specific aims:

  • To establish the association between early childhood exposure to outdoor, traffic-related air pollution and indoor combustion products and biological contaminants on the one hand, and the prevalence of allergic sensitization and disease in pre-school children.
  • To establish the interaction between exposure to specific outdoor air pollution components (notably diesel exhaust and NO2) and specific indoor contaminants (notably common allergens and mould and bacterial products such as endotoxin, environmental tobacco smoke, NO2 and nitrous acid) in explaining the prevalence of allergic sensitization and disease.

Study design:
Case-control study conducted within four ongoing birth cohorts (Germany: GINI and LISA, The Netherlands: PIAMA, Sweden: BAMSE).

Study population:
Two groups of 180 children were selected in each country using data on allergic sensitization collected at the age of 4 years (Germany: 3 and 2 years, respectively) for the definition of cases and controls.

Study area:
In Germany, the study population was restricted to children living in the city of Munich or surrounding communities. The Dutch cohort was recruited from a series of communities varying from rural to large cities in the North, West and the Center of the country. The Swedish cohort included children from the northern and central part of Stockholm.

Study methods:

  1. Microbial contaminants of house dust. Dust samples will be taken from the living room floor and the child’s mattress. The components of house dust under study are bacterial endotoxin, mould extracellular polysaccharides, and mould (1_3)-ß-D-glucans.
  2. Indoor allergen exposure. Data on allergen exposure at the age of 3 months has been collected in the framework one of the two original birth cohort studies.
  3. Indoor air pollution. NO2, nitrous acid (both combustion products of unvented combustion appliances) and nicotine (as a measure of environmental tobacco smoke) will be measured for a period of 14 days in the living room.
  4. Outdoor air pollution. Data has been collected on the exposure to ambient air pollution in the framework of the TRAPCA study. The components being measured are NO2 and particulate matter concentrations (respirable particles) like PM2.5 and soot.

Study period:
January 2001 - January 2005

Current status:
Fieldwork is completed.

Helmholtz Zentrum München - Institute of Epidemiology: Joachim Heinrich (PI)

Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands (Project coordination), Institute of Risk Assessment Sciences, Environmental and Occupational Health Group;
National Institute of Public Health and the Environment RIVM, Bilthoven, The Netherlands, Laboratory for Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology;
Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, Institute of Environmental Medicine

EU Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources - Key action Environment and Health (

Helmholtz Zentrum München
Institute of Epidemiology
Marie Standl
P.O. Box 1129
D-85758 Neuherberg
Tel. +49-(0)89-3187 2952
Fax +49-(0)89-3187 3380

Related publications:

Gehring U, Heinrich J, Hoek G, Giovannangelo M, Nordling E, Bellander T, Gerritsen J, de Jongste JC, Smit HA, Wichmann HE, Wickman M, Brunekreef B:
Bacteria and mould components in house dust and children's allergic sensitization.
Eur Respir J. 2007 Mar 1; [Epub ahead of print]

Giovannangelo M, Gehring U, Nordling E, Oldenwening M, Terpstra G, Bellander T, Hoek G, Heinrich J, Brunekreef B:
Determinants of house dust endotoxin in three European countries - the AIRALLERG study.
Indoor Air. 2007 Feb;17(1):70-9.

Gehring U, Leaderer BP, Heinrich J, Oldenwening M, Giovannangelo ME, Nordling E, Merkel G, Hoek G, Bellander T, Brunekreef B:
Comparison of parental reports of smoking and residential air nicotine concentrations in children.
Occup Environ Med. 2006 Nov;63(11):766-72.


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