Climate change may be affecting allergies

May 25, 2011 6:20:58 PM PDT
If you've been having a tough time with allergies this spring, there may be a very good explanation. A new study suggests that global climate change is making allergies even worse than usual.

Allergies and asthma effect as many as 50 million Americans and a new report says that as the CO2 levels go up, so too does the number of allergy sufferers.

Cathleen Arutunian gets four allergy shots a month. For her and millions of Americans the biggest irritants are tree, grass, and weed pollen.

"I have definitely been helped by the shots and not miserable anymore during the spring season, just maybe slightly uncomfortable," said Arutunian.

A report by California Watch says allergies are on the rise because of global climate change.

Dr. Robert Torrano with the Allergy And Asthma Associates of Northern California says warmer weather impacts plant growth and thus pollen production.

"This year has been a particularly bad year because lot of rain and now we've had dry weather for a number of weeks and we've had a lot of patients in that haven't been seen in many years," said Torrano.

The California Watch report cites a study from Quest Diagnostics. Quest found over four years there has been a 6 percent increase in overall allergies, a 15 percent increase in ragweed allergies and a 12 percent increase in mold allergies.

Many experts say the evidence indicates an increase in CO2 levels is to blame. ABC7 spoke to Dr. Paul Esptein from Harvard Medical School via Skype. He's part of Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment.

"We've done experiments with poison ivy as well, so it's not just ragweed. But poison ivy gets stronger when grown under high levels of CO2," said Esptein.

Epstein says climate change has also increased the allergy season in the U.S. by two to four weeks depending on location.

Cathleen says she's now not the only one in the family having trouble breathing.

"Well my husband has never suffered from allergies before. He's 45 and for the first time he is suffering," said Cathleen.

The Quest study did find that men suffer from allergens more than women, which contradicts previous studies. It's no surprise that children are more vulnerable than adults.

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