Endotoxin exposures have manifold effects on human health. The geographical variation and determinants of domestic endotoxin levels in Europe have not yet been extensively described. To investigate the geographical variation and determinants of domestic endotoxin concentrations in mattress dust in Europe using data collected in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey follow-up (ECRHS II). Endotoxin levels were measured in mattress dust from 974 ECRHS II participants from 22 study centers using an immunoassay. Information on demographic, lifestyle, and housing characteristics of the participants was obtained in face-to-face interviews. The median endotoxin concentration in mattress dust ranged from 772 endotoxin units per gram (EU/g) dust in Reykjavik, Iceland, to 4806 EU/g in Turin, Italy. High average outdoor summer temperature of study center, cat or dog keeping, a high household crowding index, and visible damp patches in the bedroom were significantly associated with a higher endotoxin concentrations in mattress dust. There is a large variability in domestic endotoxin levels across Europe. Average outdoor summer temperature of study center, which explains only 10% of the variation in domestic endotoxin level by center, is the strongest meteorological determinant. The observed variation needs to be taken into account when evaluating the health effects of endotoxin exposures in international contexts.
The incoherent observations of the health effects of endotoxin may be partly owing to the geographical heterogeneity of endotoxin exposure. Therefore, the observed variation should be considered in further studies. Measurements of indoor endotoxin are recommended as an indicator for the level of exposures of individual domestic environments.
2012. Vol. 22, no 1, 24-32 p.