Air pollution could be a major cause of respiratory disease, including asthma in children. This finding, from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, is the latest in a growing list of research papers to show a link between air pollution and respiratory problems.

The researchers have pinpointed children who suffer from bronchial hyper responsiveness (BHR) and have high serum concentrations of total IgE as being at greatest risk. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is a type of antibody that plays a role in allergic reactions.

In an accompanying commentary, Peter Burney from Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine in London says that no consistent data has proved a definite link between air pollution and respiratory problems.

In 1985, in the last severe smog to affect Europe, very few people reported a worsening of their asthma, although there was a high increase in hospital admissions for stroke and cardiovascular disease (Lancet, 1999; 353: 859-60; 874-8).

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