Editorial: The reason you're sneezin'
From the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.)
Editors: this was written during the spring pollen season, but could be adapted to strengthen references to whatever pollen is making life miserable where you live. Note August reference in last graph.
Global warming is melting glaciers and changing wildlife habitats in faraway places. But another impact of climate change may be as close as the runny nose on your face.
Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture implicates climate change in the sharp increase in allergies and asthma in Western countries over the last few decades. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, researchers planted ragweed, under identical conditions, in rural, suburban and urban areas around Baltimore. The differences were dramatic, with the urban weeds producing nearly four times as much pollen as their rural and suburban cousins.
Scientists attribute the differences to warmer temperatures and more carbon dioxide in the air, both of which are products of global warming as well as the urban ecosystem. Not only is there more pollen, the researchers say, but the urban pollen is more toxic.
The findings are a clue to an enduring public health mystery. Asthma rates among Americans have doubled, from 3 percent to 6 percent of the population, since 1980. Childhood asthma is rising even faster, especially in urban areas, despite gains in reducing air pollution.
Global warming may not be the only culprit, but the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to include the impact on pollen producing plants in a report due in August. With solutions to the global warming many years away, there's not much the estimated 35 million Americans who suffer from pollen-induced allergies can do this time of year but pass the tissues and be glad when rain clears the air.