The evidence as to whether exposure to environmental airborne endotoxin plays a protective or an inducing role in the development of asthma is reviewed. Studies of endotoxin and atopy, endotoxin and asthma, and farming and asthma are considered and, in each instance, a distinction is made between evidence of primary causation and evidence of secondary causation. It is concluded that, although it is plausible that bacterial endotoxin may protect against the development of asthma, there is considerable reason for caution regarding this hypothesis.
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