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Climate change causing allergies, researchers say

Allergies are on the rise.Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget/FlickrAllergies are on the rise.

Apocalyptic images of global climate change include drought, rising sea levels, suffocating coral reefs and emaciated, drowning polar bears. But a new study points to some of the more immediate and mundane side effects of global warming: runny noses, itchy eyes and persistent coughs.

Researchers say allergies are on the rise, and it's the result of warmer temperatures and happier allergens, like ragweed and mold. 

A New Jersey-based company, Quest Diagnostics, examined more than 2 million blood specimens from patients seeking allergy tests.

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The company has tests, used by doctors, to sample blood for markers indicating whether a person is allergic to a specific item.

They found that over four years of sampling, there was a nearly 6 percent increase in overall allergies, and a whopping 15 percent increase in ragweed allergies.

California, Nevada and Arizona had some of the largest increases in ragweed sufferers, climbing 21 percent.

According to the company, this was the largest allergy study ever conducted in the United States.

“The rapid rise in common ragweed and mold is consistent with other research linking climate change to greater sensitization to select environmental allergens,” wrote the authors.

The study also a found a 12 percent increase in mold allergies.

Lewis Ziska, a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture, is not at all surprised by the findings.

In 2010, he and a team of scientists showed that fungal spore growth – a common allergen – increased with rises in carbon dioxide. And in February of this year, he and another team of researchers showed that the ragweed pollen season has increased by nearly a month since 1995.

The team’s data, he said, “demonstrate a clear correlation between frost-free days and ragweed pollen season” and therefore, to higher exposure to the ragweed allergen.

The Quest study also found that men were more sensitive to allergens than women, and children more so than adults. This is the first time this gender difference has been seen, and contradicts earlier studies that showed women were more sensitive than men.


Filed under: Environment, Daily Report


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