Air pollution has already been linked to a lot of health concerns, and now, it has been found that air pollution linked to climate change could also contribute to allergic reactions such as wheezing, sneezing and sniffling.
It is believed that the gases nitrogen dioxide and ground level ozone could stimulate certain chemical changes in the allergens that are already airborne, and could improve their potency to cause a reaction.
These findings probably explain why airborne allergies are becoming more common today with the increase in global climate change.
“Scientists have long suspected that air pollution and climate change are involved in the increasing prevalence of allergies worldwide. But understanding the underlying chemical processes behind this phenomenon has proven elusive,” Ulrich Pöschl, Ph.D., of the Max Planck Institute in Germany explains. “Our research is just a starting point, but it does begin to suggest how chemical modifications in allergenic proteins occur and how they may affect allergenicity.”
It is estimated that 50 million people in the United States alone suffer from nasal allergies, and the numbers are increasing steadily.
The researchers attempted to dig deeper into their previous work which involved exploring how allergy causing substances tend to get altered in the air. They attempted to examine exactly how traffic related air pollutants could influence the strength of these allergens.
Using laboratory tests and computer stimulations, they studied the different effects of different levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide on an allergen called Bet v 1.
They found that ozone, which is a major component of smog, tends to oxidize an amino acid called tyrosine, which further helps the formation of Bet v 1 proteins. This oxidation leads to a series of transformations which alters the structures of this allergens, and thereby also impacts it biological effects, causing it to become more potent.
“Our research is showing that chemical modifications of allergenic proteins may play an important role in the increasing prevalence of allergies worldwide,” the researchers add. “With rising levels of these pollutants we will have more of these protein modifications, and in turn, these modifications will affect the allergenic potential of the protein.”