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'Tis the Season of Watery Eyes and Runny Noses in PA

April 23, 2013

HARRISBURG, Pa. - For outdoors enthusiasts, the new buds on trees and fresh blooms on flowers mark the transition to spring. For allergy sufferers in Pennsylvania, the scenario is bittersweet.

According to Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, a changing climate has meant a growing population of the kinds of trees to which most people with allergies in Pennsylvania react.

"Particularly trees like oak and birch, hickory, ash, juniper," she mentioned. "And we've done some analysis to show that with climate change, these sorts of trees are moving into areas in the Northeast and pushing out less-allergenic species like conifers."

Staudt asserted that the best chance to tone down the effects of spring allergies in states such as Pennsylvania is to meet the sources of climate change head on.

"We've compared one scenario where we continue on the current path of high emissions, and a second scenario where we really cut our emissions of carbon from burning fossil fuels, and you can see a major difference where you have much more allergenic potential if we continue on this path of high emissions," she said.

The flip side to that, per Staudt, is that trees and plants requiring colder conditions find the Pennsylvania climate growing too warm for their well-being. NWF predicts that unchecked global warming will make respiratory allergies worse for millions of Americans and around the world.

The byproducts of spring allergies are not just physical. NWF says allergies and asthma cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars a year in direct health-care costs and lost productivity.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA