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Pollen pollution and allergies on the rise

Pollen pollution and allergies on the rise

Pollen pollution in Europe increases massively

The pollen count in Europe increases and with it the risk of allergies. Researchers at the Technical University (TU) in Munich have investigated the Europe-wide development of air pollution with allergenic pollen and have uncovered possible connections with the increase in allergies.

A team of international scientists led by Professor Annette Menzel from the Technical University of Munich reports in the specialist magazine "PLoS ONE" that the pollen pollution in the air in modern industrialized nations has risen continuously in recent years. This is accompanied by a growing spread of allergic respiratory diseases such as hay fever and asthma, write Menzel and colleagues. The climate change has a significant influence here, whereby not only the rise in temperature but above all the increased CO2 concentration favors the growth of plants and thus pollen production, the scientists continue.

Rise in pollen concentration and allergy risk As part of their study, the researchers led by Professor Annette Menzel used time spins to investigate the pollen concentration in the air in 13 countries and registered a significant increase in the amount of pollen. "For 1,221 pollen time series over at least 10 years each, uniform annual pollen indices were calculated, which enable a comparison of allergologically important bee pollen from different climatic conditions," said the TU Munich. The result: allergenic pollen is on the rise across Europe, which also leads to an increase in allergic diseases. According to the researchers, this development will continue in the coming years, which is why people in Europe have to prepare for a significantly higher allergy burden. The urban population in particular is affected by this, because the results of the investigation have shown that the pollen concentration in cities has increased by an average of three percent annually, whereas the increase in rural areas was only one percent per year, report Menzel and colleagues.

Urban climate as a field of experimentation for climate impacts According to the researchers, some of the effects of climate change can already be read today based on the urban climate. "The urban climate is already warmer and drier today, and there is also a higher level of air pollution," said ecoclimatologist Annette Menzel. The researchers therefore used the urban areas as an “experimental field” to forecast the climate impacts. Here the temperature is due to the “dense development in so-called urban heat islands by one to three degrees higher”, the scientists report. The CO2 and pollutant levels in the air are also mostly increased there. "We already find the conditions in urban areas that we also expect to see in rural areas in the future," explained Prof. Menzel.

Pollen allergens with serious consequences for health The researchers cite the increasing concentration of pollen as a major cause of the increasing pollen load. Here, laboratory tests and several field studies have shown that the rising carbon dioxide levels in the air accelerate plant growth and in this way also increase pollen production. The rising temperatures also contribute to the fact that the pollen season is getting longer every year, Prof. Menzel and colleagues report. "These changes lead to a greater burden on people from pollen allergens with potentially serious consequences for public health," said the experts in the article "Changes to Airborne Pollen Counts across Europe". However, according to a message from the Technical University of Munich, it is not the increase in the pollen concentration per se that is decisive in relation to the allergy risk, but rather its function as a "(carrier) carrier of allergy-promoting substances."

Concentration of allergy-promoting substances fluctuates In order to estimate the future allergy burden, Prof. Annette Menzel "together with the allergist Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann from the Allergy and Environment Center (TUM / Helmholtz Center Munich) researched the allergy trends in cities and rural areas", so the announcement of the TU Munich. The researchers were able to prove that the release of allergy-promoting substances fluctuates from year to year and that there are also differences between pollen from rural and urban areas. The detailed research results are to be presented shortly, but it is already clear today that "the view of the climate future is not only unpleasant for city dwellers," the researchers explained. (fp)

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