NYMC Faculty Publications

Early-Life Exposure to Air Pollution Associated With Food Allergy in Children: Implications for 'One Allergy' Concept

Author Type(s)


Journal Title

Environmental Research

First Page


Document Type


Publication Date



Public Health


BACKGROUND: The rapid increase of food allergy (FA) has become the "second wave" of allergy epidemic and is now a major global public health concern. Mounting evidence indicates that early life exposure to air pollution is associated with the "first wave" of allergy epidemic (including asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema) in children, but little is known about its association with FA. OBJECTIVES: We hypothesize FA has triple exposure pathways, gut-skin-airway, and investigate the effects of airway exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution on childhood FA. METHODS: A cohort study of 2598 preschool children aged 3-6 years old was conducted in Changsha, China. The prevalence of FA was surveyed using a standard questionnaire by International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). Exposure to indoor air pollution was assessed by four indicators: new furniture, redecoration, mold or dampness, and window condensation. Exposure to outdoor air pollution was evaluated by the concentrations of PM10, SO2 and NO2, which were obtained from the monitored stations. Both prenatal and postnatal exposure windows were considered. The association between exposure to outdoor/indoor air pollution and childhood FA was estimated by multiple logistic regression models using odds ratio (OR) and a 95% confidence interval (CI). RESULTS: A total of 14.9% children reported FA. The prevalence was significantly associated with exposure to indoor air pollution, OR (95% CI) = 1.93 (1.35-2.75) for prenatal exposure to mold/dampness and 1.49 (1.07-2.10) and 1.41 (1.04-1.89) respectively for postnatal exposure to new furniture and window condensation. The prevalence of FA was also associated with prenatal and postnatal exposure to outdoor air pollution, particularly the traffic-related air pollutant NO2, with adjusted ORs (95% Cls) respectively 1.24 (1.00-1.54) and 1.38 (1.03-1.85) per interquartile range (IQR) increase. Sensitivity analysis showed that the association between outdoor/indoor air pollution and childhood FA was significant only in young children aged 3-4 years. CONCLUSION: Early-life exposure to high levels of outdoor and indoor air pollution in China due to the rapid economic growth and fast urbanization in the past decades may contribute to the rapid increase of food allergy (FA) in children. Our study indicates that, in addition to gut and skin, airway may be a new route of food sensitization. Air pollution leads to the first and second waves of allergy epidemics, suggesting a concept of 'one allergy' disease.