Background: An inverse association between domestic exposure to endotoxin and atopy in childhood has been observed. The relevance of this aspect of the hygiene hypothesis to US inner-city communities that have disproportionately high asthma prevalence has not been determined.
Objectives: To measure endotoxin in the dust from inner-city homes, evaluate associations between endotoxin and housing/lifestyle characteristics, and determine whether endotoxin exposure predicted wheeze, allergic rhinitis, and eczema over the first 3 years of life.
Methods: As part of an ongoing prospective birth cohort study, children of Dominican and African-American mothers living in New York City underwent repeated questionnaire measures. Dust samples collected from bedroom floors at age 12 or 36 months were assayed for endotoxin.
Results: Among the samples collected from 301 participants’ homes, the geometric mean endotoxin concentration (95% CI) was 75.9 EU/mg (66-87), and load was 3892 EU/m2 (3351-4522). Lower endotoxin concentrations were associated with wet mop cleaning and certain neighborhoods. Endotoxin concentration correlated weakly with cockroach (Bla g 2: r = 0.22, P < .001) and mouse (mouse urinary protein: r = 0.28; P < .001) allergens in the dust. Children in homes with higher endotoxin concentration were less likely to have eczema at age 1 year (odds ratio, 0.70 [0.53-0.93]) and more likely to wheeze at age 2 years (odds ratio, 1.34 [1.01-1.78]). These associations were stronger among children with a maternal history of asthma.
Conclusion: Endotoxin levels in this inner-city community are similar to those in nonfarm homes elsewhere. In this community, domestic endotoxin exposure was inversely associated with eczema at age 1 year, but positively associated with wheeze at age 2 years.