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Report: Arizona 7th Worst in Nation for Ozone and Ragweed Air Pollution

Ragweed pollen and high ozone levels linked to climate change are getting worse, according to a new report. (R. A. Nonenmacher)
Ragweed pollen and high ozone levels linked to climate change are getting worse, according to a new report. (R. A. Nonenmacher)
July 13, 2017

PHOENIX -- Are your allergies acting up this summer? A new report says almost 70 percent of Arizonans live in counties plagued by a double whammy of high ragweed pollen count and excessive ozone days - the 7th worst in the nation for these issues.

Researchers from the Natural Resources Defense Council said that's a big problem for the 490,000 adults and 177,000 children with asthma in the Grand Canyon State. Study author Kim Knowlton, a scientist with the NRDC and a professor at Colombia, called on lawmakers to create an effective climate action plan to combat the problem at its source.

"Supporting state and national initiatives to reduce carbon pollution is going to pull us back from the brink of more of these effects in the future and more and more air pollution challenges,” Knowlton said.

The research shows that ozone and ragweed are a significant problem around Phoenix, Prescott and Flagstaff, while Tucson and Yuma battle the smog but not the pollen.

The study said that rising temperatures fueled by climate change speed up ozone production. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, helps ragweed flourish, while additional hot days mean more pollen over a longer period of time.

Knowlton said there are steps people can take to reduce exposure to the allergens.

"And if it's a really high pollen day, save your outdoor activity for a day later in the week when conditions are better,” she suggested. "When you come indoors, you can take a damp washcloth and towel off your hair, launder your clothes so that you're not breathing the pollen indoors as well."

Nationwide, the report found that 127 million Americans, or 40 percent of the population, live in counties plagued by ozone and ragweed. The NRDC website has a searchable map to help you look up your local conditions.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ