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Future Springs Could be a Nightmare for Allergy Sufferers

Nov 05, 2014 08:25 PM EST
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Winter is fast approaching, and many seasonal allergy sufferers may have their fingers crossed for an exceptionally cold and rainy one. That's because common airborne allergies like grass pollen completely disappear in a good portion of the world with these conditions.

However, for generations to come, winter may start seeing more and more like the calm before an insufferable storm.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the journal PLOS One, which details how there will likely be a notable increase in grass pollen production and allergen exposure of up to 202 percent in the next 100 years.

Environmental health scientist Christine Rogers of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst explained that the main driving factor of this troublesome change will be an expected rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels across the globe.

Even now, researchers have been finding over and over again that despite efforts taken by polluting nations, a spike in carbon levels within the next century is almost certainly unavoidable.

"The implications of increasing CO2 for human health are clear. Stimulation of grass pollen production by elevated CO2 will increase airborne concentrations and increase exposure and suffering in grass pollen-allergic individuals," Rogers said in a statement.

The researcher and her colleagues determined this after observing grass plants in specially designed chambers that allowed them to expose samples to various atmospheric gas levels as they grew. Each plant was then measured for its average pollen production. They found that with raised CO2 levels (within the parameters of future atmospheric levels) pollen production increased by a whopping 200 percent.

"These results are similar to our other studies performed in other highly allergenic taxa such as ragweed but with more extreme outcomes and wider impacts," Rogers warned.

She added that while some experts have argued that elevated ozone levels could lower allergen concentrations per pollen grain, balancing this hike in production, the researcher showed that the flood of pollen that is expected easily outweighs any small effect ozone levels may have.

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