Pollen concentrations and prevalence of asthma and allergic rhinitis in Italy: Evidence from the GEIRD study

Pierpaolo Marchetti, Giancarlo Pesce, Simona Villani, Leonardo Antonicelli, Renato Ariano, Francesco Attena, Roberto Bono, Valeria Bellisario, Alessandro Fois, Nadia Gibelli, Morena Nicolis, Mario Olivieri, Pietro Pirina, Eugenio Scopano, Consolata Siniscalco, Giuseppe Verlato, Alessandro Marcon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Pollen exposure has acute adverse effects on sensitized individuals. Information on the prevalence of respiratory diseases in areas with different pollen concentrations is scanty. Aim We performed an ecologic analysis to assess whether the prevalence of allergic rhinitis and asthma in young adults varied across areas with different pollen concentrations in Italy. Methods A questionnaire on respiratory diseases was delivered to random samples of 20–44 year-old subjects from six centers in 2005–2010. Data on the daily air concentrations of 7 major allergologic pollens (Poaceae, Urticaceae, Oleaceae, Cupressaceae, Coryloideae, Betula and Ambrosia) were collected for 2007–2008. Center-specific pollen exposure indicators were calculated, including the average number of days per year with pollens above the low or high concentration thresholds defined by the Italian Association of Aerobiology. Associations between pollen exposure and disease prevalence, adjusted for potential confounders, were estimated using logistic regression models with center as a random-intercept. Results Overall, 8834 subjects (56.8%) filled in the questionnaire. Allergic rhinitis was significantly less frequent in the centers with longer periods with high concentrations of at least one (OR per 10 days = 0.989, 95%CI: 0.979–0.999) or at least two pollens (OR = 0.974, 95%CI: 0.951–0.998); associations with the number of days with at least one (OR = 0.988, 95%CI: 0.972–1.004) or at least two (OR = 0.985, 95%CI: 0.970–1.001) pollens above the low thresholds were borderline significant. Asthma prevalence was not associated with pollen concentrations. Conclusions Our study does not support that the prevalence of allergic rhinitis and asthma is greater in centers with higher pollen concentrations. It is not clear whether the observed ecologic associations hold at the individual level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1099
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2017


  • Adult
  • Aeroallergen
  • Allergy
  • Ecologic study
  • Public health
  • Respiratory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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