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Traffic Driven Air-borne Pollutants Giving Rise to More Allergies: Study

Traffic-related pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone may trigger chemical changes in certain airborne allergens, boosting their potency, said a research study.

Perhaps this could explain why an increasing number of airborne allergies are becoming more common forcing people to suffer more from airborne allergies during the allergy season, said researchers.

“Scientists have long suspected that air pollution and climate change are involved in the increasing prevalence of allergies. But understanding the underlying chemical processes behind this phenomenon has proven elusive,” said Ulrich Poschl from Max Planck Institute in Germany.

airpollutionIn lab tests and computer simulations, they studied the effects of various levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide on the major birch pollen allergen called Bet v 1.

The team also found that nitrogen dioxide released from the vehicles appears to alter the polarity and binding capabilities of Bet v 1 allergenic proteins, which in conjunction with the effects of ozone, may enhance the immune response of the body to these particles, particularly in humid, wet and smoggy environments.

This transformation gives scope to a chain of chemical reactions involving reactive oxygen intermediates that can bind proteins together, altering their structures and their potential biological effects. When this occurs, the cross-linked proteins can become more potent allergens, the researchers noted.

“Our research…begin to suggest how chemical modifications in allergenic proteins occur and how they may affect allergenicity,” Posch said.

The study was presented at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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