The icebergs are melting and the sea levels are rising. Studies show droughts could become longer and more frequent, coastal storms more damaging, and forest fires more expansive. Now, researchers say climate change is also likely to bring about more pollen-induced sneezing.
A runny nose might be the least of one’s worries while standing in three feet of East Coast floodwater, but scientists added allergies to the long list of things that will get worse as a result of global warming.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst grew a variety of grasses and other flowering plants in a lab setting while manipulating CO2 concentrations. Higher levels of CO2 enabled higher pollen yields.
“The implications of increasing CO2 for human health are clear,” researcher Jennifer Albertine said in a press release. “Stimulation of grass pollen production by elevated CO2 will increase airborne concentrations and increase exposure and suffering in grass pollen-allergic individuals.”
The researchers also looked at the effect of increased ozone, or O3, levels on flowering plants. Ozone gas has been shown to depress plant growth, but the lab experiment showed ozone levels had no effect on the pollen output.
Higher ozone concentrations “would likely elicit negative respiratory health effects independent of any health effects as a result of increased pollen by elevated CO2,” Albertine and her colleagues at Amherst wrote in their newly published study — available this week in the journal PLOS ONE.
The new study adds to previous research that predicts the allergy season will grow longer. It’s not clear if an uptick in pollen will result in more people developing allergies, but the evidence does point to a future reality in which allergy sufferers will be confronted with more and more pollen — and for a larger portion of the year.
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