Earlier studies have suggested that diesel exhaust can predispose people to allergies. The study authors focused on cockroach allergy, which is linked to a higher likelihood of asthma in urban areas.
The team followed 727 pregnant women in Manhattan and the Bronx, collecting dust from the women’s beds and kitchens before and after their children were born. The moms also wore backpacks during their pregnancies that sampled the air, and their kids were later tested for allergies.
The researchers had enough data to conduct analyses for about half the kids. If kitchen dust sampled before the baby was born had higher levels of a cockroach allergen, kids were more likely to be sensitive to cockroaches when they were 5 to 7 years old — but with one caveat. The team saw this link only if the air samples collected during the mother’s pregnancy contained high levels of pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Most PAHs in New York come from diesel trucks and boilers, the authors say. While keeping cockroaches until control might be a Herculean task, people also can reduce the prevalence of cockroach allergy by cutting pollution from these sources. — Roberta Kwok | 6 February 2013
Source: Perzanowski, M.S. et al. 2013. Early-life cockroach allergen and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposures predict cockroach sensitization among inner-city children. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
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