Purpose of review: Air pollution has been increasingly associated with diverse adverse health outcomes, including airway diseases. Data suggest that gene–environment interactions are important in this context. However, evidence regarding causal effects of exposure and development of allergic conditions specifically remains immature. We review the developments of the past 18 months regarding air pollution, genetics and epigenetics, and allergy.
Recent findings: Conflicting evidence for air pollution as causative in the development of allergic disease persists. However, recent data support the associations between long-term exposure to traffic-related pollutants and newly developed sensitization in children. Studies from India and China demonstrate the global burden of health-related costs attributed to air pollutants and allergic diseases. The effect of exposure seems to be modified by coexposures of allergens as well as genetic variants, particularly those moderating response to oxidative stress. Potential links between exposures and epigenetic (DNA methylation) changes with consequences for disease development are also reinforced.
Summary: Data over the past 18 months support prior literature that air pollutants cause exacerbation, and possibly onset, of allergic disease. Regarding the onset of asthma specifically, the evidence of causality has grown significantly, but it remains difficult to separate allergic from nonallergic asthma. Effect of modification by genetic variants and epigenetic changes warrants further study.