Abstract

Exposure to endotoxin occurs environmentally and occupationally. There are several differences between them in terms of the variety and severity of health outcomes, possible exposed groups and type and route of exposure. Occupational exposures caused adverse health outcomes in almost all cases, but there is disparity in the incidence of significant health outcomes due to environmental exposure to endotoxin. This study has therefore endeavoured to investigate health outcomes from environmental exposure to endotoxin. A systematic review was conducted of three databases and non-occupational studies reporting the environmental concentration of endotoxin, and observed health outcomes in exposed groups were included in the review (n = 27). The studies showed that first exposure to endotoxin occurs in infancy by the inhalation route. Inhalation is the only exposure route that can induce inflammation as the main symptom of exposure to endotoxin. The studies included were conducted using four approaches: molecular immunology, measurement of lung volumes, clinical sensitisation test and diagnosis of asthmatic and respiratory symptoms such as wheezing. By the immunological approach, all the included studies reported that environmental exposure to endotoxin, especially at a younger age, has a protective effect on the incidence of asthma in adolescence. The main disparity observed was in studies using the approach of diagnosed asthma. Overall, however, they confirm the protective effect of exposure to endotoxin although, in the case of children with non-atopic asthma, the results could be different.

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