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Report: Flowering Trees Bring More Sneezes in Washington

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April 15, 2010

SEATTLE - Washington residents with allergies are well aware that spring is in full swing, as a new report from the National Wildlife Federation(NWF) finds that more people are suffering from allergies and related asthma than were affected 20 years ago. At the same time, seasonal allergy triggers are flourishing as the climate changes.

Researcher Paul Epstein of the Harvard University Center for Health and the Global Environment says that, setting aside the debate about global warming, it's a fact that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen. Scientists know that has an impact on plants, but Epstein says there are some new things they're learning.

"We knew that it would green the earth and stimulate plant growth. We hadn't foreseen that the nuisance, opportunistic species, like weeds, would make a lot more pollen."

Tree pollen is the chief allergy culprit in the spring and ragweed is the main problem in the fall.

Mike Tringale, director of external affairs with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, says the allergic reactions are more than just a nuisance; asthma can be life-threatening. He sees the report as a call to action for allergy sufferers and everyone else.

"We want them to improve their relationships with their doctors so that they can have a better allergy and asthma management plan, and we want communities to improve their response to the global warming problem."

The report shows that seasonal allergies and asthma affect 50 million people nationwide, and cost nearly $27 billion in medical expenses, with those numbers predicted to rise as trouble plants continue to expand their ranges and flowering seasons.

The report, "Extreme Allergies and Global Warming," is available online at
www.nwf.org

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WA