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October 8, 2003

Air Pollution as an Underappreciated Cause of Asthma Symptoms

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, Tuxedo (Dr Thurston) and Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Dr Bates).

JAMA. 2003;290(14):1915-1917. doi:10.1001/jama.290.14.1915

For nearly 100 years it has been known that asthma is a condition in which an acute respiratory response may follow inhalation of some material to which a person is sensitized. The list of such materials grew slowly over 50 years (it started with horse dandruff), continued with ragweed and grasses, and on the basis of skin responses, was believed to include a wide variety of foodstuffs (including nuts).1 Domestic pets, and later, pests such as cockroaches and house dust mites came to the fore, and as occupational asthma came to be recognized, the list expanded still further. However, the focus of such awareness has been on agents that directly cause allergic reaction, and therefore can be diagnosed via skin tests, rather than on agents that cause nonspecific generalized inflammation, such as air pollution.

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