Background: Exposure to London Plane Tree (Platanus) bioaerosols in Sydney, Australia has been anecdotally linked to respiratory irritation, rhinitis, and conjunctivitis. Objective: To determine the relationships between Platanus bioaerosol exposure, allergic sensitization, and symptoms. Methods: Sixty-four subjects with self-reported Platanus symptoms were recruited from inner-urban Sydney. Allergic sensitization was determined by skin prick test (SPT) to 13 allergens. Airborne concentrations of Platanus pollen, trichomes, and achene fibers, and other pollen and fungal spores, were measured over the spring and summer of 2006-2007. Subjects' allergic symptoms were monitored concurrently. The Halogen immunoassay (HIA) was used to measure subjects' immunoglobulin E (IgE) reactivity to collected bioaerosols. Results: Platanus pollen constituted 76 percent of total pollen between July 2006 and April 2007. Airborne concentrations of Platanus pollen peaked from August until October. Non-Platanus pollen peaked from July to December. Elevated concentrations of trichomes and achene fibers occurred from September to December and August to October, respectively. As determined by SPT, 85.9 percent of subjects were sensitized, 65.6 percent to any pollen tested, 56.3 percent to Lolium perenne, and 23.4 percent to Platanus. Higher mean daily symptom scores were only associated with high counts of non-Platanus pollens. HIA analysis demonstrated IgE binding to Platanus pollen in all Platanus sensitized subjects. Personal nasal air sampling detected airborne trichomes that were capable of being inhaled. Platanus trichomes or achene fibers did not bind IgE from any subject. Conclusions: Platanus bioaerosols exist in high concentrations between August and November in inner-urban Sydney but were not associated with seasonal symptoms. Platanus trichomes are inhaled and may constitute a respiratory irritant.
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