World’s first smog allergy study shows you can be allergic to smog

Blood collected from participants was exposed to samples of Kraków smog particles in laboratory conditions. Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

Ground-breaking study by Polish scientists has shown that red blood cells produce an allergic response when exposed to smog particles in 75 percent of healthy individuals and 83 percent of already allergic individuals.

The three-year pilot study led by doctors at the Jagiellonian University’s Medical School, was carried out on the blood of two groups of individuals – non-allergic individuals who experienced respiratory symptoms in the autumn-winter months and whose symptoms eased when they spent time in clean air regions, and allergic individuals with a springtime allergy to birch tree pollen.

Blood collected from participants was exposed to samples of Kraków smog particles in laboratory conditions. The samples of PM 2.5 suspended dust particles, were extracted from air quality measuring stations located around the city.

The three-year pilot study at the Jagiellonian University’s Medical School found that red blood cells produce an allergic response when exposed to smog particles in 75 percent of healthy individuals and 83 percent of already allergic individuals.cm-uj.krakow/Facebook

After adding the samples of smog particles to the samples of fresh blood, scientists found that the smog produced an allergic response in 75 percent of the non-allergic individuals and in 83 percent of those allergic to birch pollen.

Professor Ewa Czarnobilska, initiator and coordinator of the smog allergy study and director of the Department of Toxicology and Environmental Diseases at Collegium Medicum, said: “These were the first studies of this kind in Poland, and to my knowledge anywhere in the world, which analysed a blood reaction to smog.

“We proved that blood cells, specifically basophils, which are a source of histamine – the body’s main mediator responsible for allergic reactions - activated under the influence of PM 2.5 dust particles.

Professor Ewa Czarnobilska said: “We proved that blood cells, specifically basophils, which are a source of histamine – the body’s main mediator responsible for allergic reactions - activated under the influence of PM 2.5 dust particles.”unimedica.com.pl

 “The blood cell reaction to PM 2.5 was similar to the blood reaction to birch pollen in those individuals allergic to it.

“There are many publications which talk about air pollution causing chronic respiratory diseases, but no one has proved that air pollution can initiate an allergic response in healthy individuals.”

Whilst clinical medicine doesn’t currently recognise the term ‘smog allergy’, the authors of the Kraków study believe this will soon change.

Alongside blood, the study also analysed the chemical composition of healthy individuals exposed to smog and found that benzoapyrene, a compound found in smog and considered to be carcinogenic, was present in the urine of all of them.