Volatile organic compounds and risk of asthma and allergy: a systematic review

Nurmatov, Ulugbek B., Tagiyeva-Milne, Nara orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6398-572X, Semple, Sean, Devereux, Graham and Sheikh, Aziz (2015) Volatile organic compounds and risk of asthma and allergy: a systematic review. European Respiratory Review, 24 (135). pp. 92-101. ISSN 0905-9180

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1183/09059180.00000714


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are ubiquitous domestic pollutants. Their role in asthma/allergy development and exacerbations is uncertain. This systematic review investigated whether domestic VOC exposure increases the risk of developing and/or exacerbating asthma and allergic disorders.

We systematically searched 11 databases and three trial repositories, and contacted an international panel of experts to identify published and unpublished experimental and epidemiological studies.

8455 potentially relevant studies were identified; 852 papers were removed after de-duplication, leaving 7603 unique papers that were screened. Of these, 278 were reviewed in detail and 53 satisfied the inclusion criteria. Critical appraisal of the included studies indicated an overall lack of high-quality evidence and substantial risk of bias in this body of knowledge. Aromatics (i.e. benzenes, toluenes and xylenes) and formaldehyde were the main VOC classes studied, both in relation to the development and exacerbations of asthma and allergy. Approximately equal numbers of studies reported that exposure increased risks and that exposure was not associated with any detrimental effects.

The available evidence implicating domestic VOC exposure in the risk of developing and/or exacerbating asthma and allergy is of poor quality and inconsistent. Prospective, preferably experimental studies, investigating the impact of reducing/eliminating exposure to VOC, are now needed in order to generate a more definitive evidence base to inform policy and clinical deliberations in relation to the management of the now substantial sections of the population who are either at risk of developing asthma/allergy or living with established disease

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