It is widely known and accepted that grass pollen is a major outdoor cause of hay fever. However, it is of virtual importance for grass pollen allergic patients with symptoms all the year round to know the concentration of grass pollen allergens in their homes.
The main objective of this study was to quantify the amount of grass pollen allergen in mass units (μg Phl p 5) in dust settled indoors and to detect the distribution of allergenic activity in different sampling locations of homes. Furthermore, we studied the seasonal fluctuation of allergen content in dust samples.
We adapted the two site binding assay for detection of group 5 grass pollen allergens in samples from randomly selected homes in Hamburg (n = 371), Erfurt (n = 396), Hettstedt (n = 353), Zerbst (n = 289) and Bitterfeld (n = 226), Germany. Dust samples were collected from floor of living room (LR), bedroom (BR) or children's room (CR) and mattress (MA) during period of June 1995 to August 1998. The amount of the major grass group 5 allergens was detected in μg/g dust.
Phl p 5 was detected in 67% of the samples analysed (n = 4760). The range was between undetectable (< 0.03 μg/g dust) and 81 μg/g dust. Phl p 5 levels were significantly higher in the dust from LR (geometric mean 0.117 μg/g dust) or BR/CR floors (geometric mean 0.098 μg/g dust) than in mattresses (geometric mean 0.043 μg/g dust). We observed seasonal fluctuation of indoor Phl p 5 levels with peak in June but also annual differences. Thus Phl p 5 content indoors reflects also the different quantities of pollen counts of annual courses. During pollination period we found two times higher Phl p 5 levels (0.172 μg/g dust, P < 0.001) than outside of grass pollination season (0.095 μg/g dust). The indoor Phl p 5 levels outside of season seem to be independent of pollination before. We suppose that settled pollen grains or allergenic material from outdoor particles carried indoors via footwear and clothes accumulates in house dust.
Although we not known how the allergens in settled dust are equilibrated with those in the air, the considerable high level of Phl p 5 in indoor dust even during periods when no grass pollen is present in the atmosphere may be an important cause of pollen-allergy symptoms outside of season.