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More than Half of Hoosiers Breathing Bad Air

In Indiana, 25 counties report one or more days each year that are smoggy enough to be considered unhealthy. (
In Indiana, 25 counties report one or more days each year that are smoggy enough to be considered unhealthy. (
July 19, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS - Are your allergies acting up this summer? A new report says more than half of Hoosiers live in counties plagued by a combination of high ragweed pollen levels and excessive ozone days.

Researchers from the Natural Resources Defense Council say it's a big problem for the 519,000 adults and 119,000 children with asthma in the state. Study author Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist with the NRDC and a professor in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, 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," she said.

In Indiana, 25 counties have reported an average of one or more unhealthy smog days each year, 65 have reported the presence of pollen-producing ragweed, and 17 suffer from both. The study said 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 time period.

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

"If it's a really high-pollen day, save your outdoor activity for a day later in the week when conditions are better," she said. "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 people learn more about their local conditions.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN