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Smog and Ragweed Deliver "Double Whammy" to CT

Ragweed thrives with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide. (Jim Pisarowicz/NPS)
Ragweed thrives with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide. (Jim Pisarowicz/NPS)
July 14, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – A new analysis ranks Connecticut high on the list of areas where smog and pollen combine to threaten respiratory health.

The Natural Resources Defense Council's mapping project puts the Nutmeg State at number two, just behind Washington, for percentage of its population subject to the "double whammy" of smog and ragweed pollen.

According to Kim Knowlton, senior scientist at NRDC, the production of ozone, which irritates the lungs, is accelerated by the warmer temperatures caused by carbon pollution.

Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air also have a direct impact on allergy sufferers.

"Ragweed loves it,” she states. “Ragweed grows more lush, more profuse and, unfortunately, it produces significantly more pollen."

The report says nationally, 127 million people – four out of every 10 Americans – live in counties with high concentrations of ozone smog and pollen.

Knowlton says from 2011 to 2015, 90 percent of the population of Connecticut lived in counties that had both unhealthy ozone days and ragweed.

"That can definitely affect health among the 90,000 children with asthma in Connecticut, and the 297,000 adults with asthma," she states.

Knowlton adds that asthma and allergies combined lead to more sick days, higher medical costs and increased heart problems and premature deaths each year.

She points out that, despite moves by the Trump administration and Congress to roll back regulations that cut carbon emissions, those efforts are continuing.

"A number of states are already reducing their carbon pollution by using more energy efficiency, burning less fossil fuels and moving toward cleaner energy sources," she says.

The NRDC mapping project makes several recommendations, including a call for federal, state and local governments to prepare for the health threats of climate change.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT