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Exposure of the human population to chlorination products has considerably increased during the 20th century especially after the 1960s with the development of public and leisure pools. The present article summarizes current knowledge regarding the human exposure to chlorination products and reviews studies suggesting that these chemicals might be involved in the development or exacerbation of allergic diseases. Populations regularly in contact with chlorination products such as swimmers, lifeguards or workers using chlorine as cleaning or bleaching agent show increased risks of allergic diseases or of respiratory disorders frequently associated with allergy. Experimental evidence suggests that chlorination products promote allergic sensitization by compromising the permeability or the immunoregulatory function of epithelial barriers. These findings led to the chlorine hypothesis proposing that the rise of allergic diseases could result less from the declining exposure to microbial agents (the hygiene hypothesis) than from the increasing and largely uncontrolled exposure to products of chlorination, the most widely used method to achieve hygiene in the developed world. Giving the increasing popularity of water recreational areas, there is an obvious need to assess the effects of chlorine-based oxidants on human health and their possible implication in the epidemic of allergic diseases.
Unit of Toxicology, Catholic University of Louvain, Avenue Mounier 53, bte 53-02, B-1200 Brussels,Belgium.
Publication date: July 1, 2007
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