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Climate Change Will Boost Grass Pollen Production

The result: increased 'exposure and suffering in grass pollen-allergic individuals,' researchers say

FRIDAY, Nov. 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Climate change will boost levels of grass pollen in the air in the next 100 years, resulting in more allergen exposure, according to a study published online Nov. 5 in PLOS ONE.

Christine Rogers, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, and colleagues examined the effects of elevated levels of carbon dioxide and ozone and found that elevated levels of carbon dioxide increased the amount of grass pollen produced by about 50 percent per flower, regardless of ozone levels. Elevated ozone significantly reduced the Phl p 5 content of the pollen; however, the net effect of rising pollen numbers with elevated carbon dioxide suggests increased allergen exposure under elevated levels of both greenhouse gases. The researchers predict that climate change-related rises in carbon dioxide will increase grass pollen production and people's exposure to the pollen by up to 202 percent in the next 100 years.

"The implications of increasing carbon dioxide for human health are clear. Stimulation of grass pollen production by elevated carbon dioxide will increase airborne concentrations and increase exposure and suffering in grass pollen-allergic individuals," Rogers and colleagues write.

"This is the first evidence that pollen production is significantly stimulated by elevated carbon dioxide in a grass species and has worldwide implications due to the ubiquitous presence of grasses in all biomes and high prevalence of grass pollen allergy," Rogers said in a university news release. "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."

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