Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Is Climate Change Making Allergy Season Worse? These Scientists Think So

Health + Wellness
Is Climate Change Making Allergy Season Worse? These Scientists Think So
Roy Morsch / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Sean Fleming

  • In the US alone, more than 50 million people have an allergy.
  • Climate change is lengthening the duration of natural pollen seasons.
  • In the US, pollen seasons are starting 20 days sooner than they did in the 1990s.

      It can start with a barely noticeable change to your breathing. Perhaps a little lightheadedness, too. Your eyes start to moisten and your skin tingles. Soon, your synapses will trigger behaviors you cannot control. And there it is – you've sneezed.

      When you sneeze, at speeds approaching 160km/h, your mouth and nose expel air, mucus, and germs as far as eight meters away.

      During allergy season, some unfortunate souls spend a disproportionate part of their time experiencing some or all of the above. In the US alone, more than 50 million people are allergy sufferers.

      Now scientists say climate change could be causing allergy season to start earlier and last longer.

      More Pollen for Longer

      A team of researchers from institutions across the US has reviewed data relating to pollen trends from 1990 to 2018. The conclusions they came to were that pollen is present in the air 20 days sooner than it used to be and at significantly higher concentrations – as much as 21% up.

      Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS), the report's authors write: "Airborne pollen has major respiratory health impacts and anthropogenic climate change may increase pollen concentrations and extend pollen seasons."

      Tracking pollen across the US: Warm colors indicate increasing annual pollen integrals. PNAS / William R. L. Anderegg et al

      Furthermore, their results strongly suggest that "human-caused climate change has already worsened North American pollen seasons." The situation is only likely to get worse, they believe, which could have serious consequences for some people's respiratory health.

      Increasing Air Quality Pressures

      Researchers are also studying how air quality, more broadly, can affect and be impacted by climate change.

      Changes in the climate can affect local air quality, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. These impacts include atmospheric warming's potential to increase ground-level ozone, which can be harmful to health. Experts are also investigating the influence of climate change on fine particulate matter and other air pollutants.

      How clean is the air in your country? Visual Capitalist

      Historically, burning fossil fuels has been one of the main contributors to the problem of poor air quality. More than 8 million people around the world die each year as a result of breathing poor-quality air, according to research from Harvard University, University College London, the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester. Mostly, that means air containing dangerous particles from coal, petrol and diesel. Among the causes of death are heart disease, lung cancer, and strokes.

      "Allergies and asthma are responsible for substantial morbidity burdens and associated medical costs in the US," the report in PNAS goes on to say.

      By connecting the challenges of poor air quality, respiratory health and climate change, the study indicates the potential for serious, ongoing public health crises and warns the situation could worsen as average global temperatures continue to climb.

      Doing Something About It

      Climate change and the efforts to prevent it remains a major global challenge and as the World Economic Forum's latest Global Risks Report highlights, failure to do so presents a serious threat.

      But, from global action, like the Paris Agreement or the Misson Possible Partnership, to more targeted initiatives, like the 1t.org (trillion trees) United States Chapter, businesses, governments and civil society are working together to bring about rapid change.

      Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.

      Recycling and general waste plastic wheelie bins awaiting collection for disposal in Newport, Rhode Island. Tim Graham / Getty Images

      Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. According to The National Museum of American History, this popular slogan, with its iconic three arrows forming a triangle, embodied a national call to action to save the environment in the 1970s. In that same decade, the first Earth Day happened, the EPA was formed and Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, encouraging recycling and conservation of resources, Enviro Inc. reported.

      Read More Show Less
      EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
      The coal-fired Huaneng Power Plant in Huai 'an City, Jiangsu Province, China on Sept. 13, 2020. Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

      One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday.

      Read More Show Less
      Trending
      A grizzly bear killed an outdoor guide in a rare attack near Yellowstone Park. William Campbell / Corbis / Getty Images

      A backcountry guide has died after being mauled by a grizzly bear near Yellowstone National Park.

      Read More Show Less
      Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) re-introduces the Green New Deal in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2021. Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

      By Brett Wilkins

      In the latest of a flurry of proposed Green New Deal legislation, Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday introduced the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021, a $1 trillion plan to "tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."

      Read More Show Less
      Offshore oil and gas drillers have left more than 18,000 miles of pipelines at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

      Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.

      Read More Show Less