Differential susceptibility to inhaled pollutants: Effects of demographics and diseases

Rebecca Bascom, Jana Kesavanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Inhaled pollutants and respiratory disease deserve particular attention at a conference focused on susceptibility and environmental risk. Inhaled air contains diverse biological, physical and chemical stressors which may cause upper and lower respiratory inflammation and exacerbate complex polygenic disorders such as asthma and sinusitis. This paper focuses on intrinsic susceptibility factors of demographics and diseases as well as genetic background. The National Health Information Survey shows that acute and chronic respiratory conditions are common at all ages, but their incidence and prevalence vary between age groups. Susceptibility is therefore not a fixed characteristic, but the aggregate effect of changing intrinsic factors such as age and disease. While ethnicity is often cited as a risk factor for disease prevalence or severity, recent research shows that measurable factors such as nasal ellipticity determine exposure-dose relationships, while the imperfect surrogate of ethnicity does not. Studies also show that exposure-dose relationships can be modified by recent exposures, and additional information is clearly needed in this area. We propose that evidence for the genetic contribution to pollutant susceptibility be sought in inter-individual variation in responses of homogenous, well characterized individuals to short term controlled pollutant exposure. Future improvements in risk assessment models will be based on a precise identification of factors that determine exposure-dose relationships, and a mechanistic understanding of the reasons that a demographic factor or disease appears to confer altered susceptibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-330
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Pharmacology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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