Climate action can help curb hay fever, asthma

Allan Foster/Flickr
Allan Foster/Flickr
KC McGinnis | May 27, 2015

With one in three Americans exposed to worsening allergies and asthma as a result of climate change, sustainable practices could mean fewer hay fevers.

The National Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Sneezing and Wheezing report recently highlighted the United States’ allergy epicenters – areas with both high ragweed content and high levels of ground-level ozone, or smog – revealing that about 109 million Americans live in these areas. The report shows that the changing climate is leading to higher production of allergenic ragweed pollen and favoring the formation of smog in industrial areas. These factors can lead to an extended allergy season across the U.S. and increases in asthma attacks, especially in children.

An estimated 24 million Americans were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) in 2012, with symptoms ranging from runny nose to throat, eye and ear irritation. These illnesses often lead to missed work days – more than 3.8 million, according to the NRDC. More concerning, however, is the increase in asthma among children, a chronic lung disease which can be triggered by allergens.

With air quality closely linked to allergy and asthma severity, decreasing CO2 emissions is expected to lead to improving respiratory conditions, especially in heavily populated and industrial areas. This is especially true with industrial facilities and power plants, which both source ozone-producing chemicals and drive climate change with carbon emissions. Minimizing these emissions could have the double impact of slowing climate change and reducing smog, leading to decreases in hay fever and asthma severity.

Last year’s Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, further highlighted the importance of decreased emissions. See the full statement here, and the complete list of Iowa Climate Statements, including this year’s, which focuses on a call for presidential candidates to address climate change, here.

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