Indoor allergen exposure in west and East Germany: a cause for different prevalences of asthma and atopy?Rev Environ Health 1999 Jul-Sep; 14(3):159-68RE
West and East Germans have been living in two different political systems for 40 years. These two populations have become a classic epidemiological example for the hypothesis that lifestyle changes accompanying the industrial and economic development of modern societies are responsible for an increase in the prevalence of atopic diseases. A higher prevalence of atopic sensitization, asthma, and hay fever was found in young West Germans after the unification. It has been hypothesized that this phenomenon was at least partially due to the installation of insulating windows and central heating systems in Western homes, favoring the growth of microorganisms like mites and moulds and increasing indoor allergen exposure. This review summarizes studies that have investigated reservoir concentrations of indoor allergens in public buildings and private homes in East and West Germany. Whereas a higher prevalence of atopic sensitization in West Germans was found for nearly all tested allergens (cat, mite, pollen), allergen exposure was higher only for cat allergens, but probably not for mite and cockroach allergens or moulds. The published data do not support the view that the differences in specific sensitization are caused by differences in the exposure to specific allergens.