Allergy Sufferers Beware Global Warming

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If you’re sneezing a bit more this year, well you’re in good company. At least 50 million Americans suffer from allergies every year. But that number is climbing, and it may be related to climate change.  

Kara Crosby is an allergist with Colorado Allergy and Asthma Centers. She says she’s seen the change in her practice.

“We have more patients coming every year,” she says, “and a lot of times their symptoms are worse.”

Many of those patients are triggered by plant pollen. And global warming may be increasing the amount of time that pollen stays in the air.

Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the USDA, says we’re seeing earlier springs and later falls.  And that’s only part of the equation.

Ziska’s research has found that plants are also responding to climate change by pumping out a larger volume of pollen.  He looked at the infamous allergenic plant, ragweed.

“What we found,” he says, “was that in an urban area the average ragweed plant because of the higher CO2 levels and the warmer temperatures, was producing about 10 times as much pollen as the average plant growing in the country.”

He says if CO2 emissions continue to rise our allergy problems may only get worse.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.