Climate change’s affects on pollen means worse allergies

Cape Codders who feel their seasonal allergies are getting worse every year are not alone. And they are not wrong.

Physicians and environmental health scientists say climate change is contributing to longer and more intense pollen seasons — and it’s a trend that shows no signs of abating.

Studies that track pollen activity over decades show that warming trends have resulted in the pollen season two starting to three weeks earlier in the northern United States than in the late 1970s and 1980s, said Dr. Aaron Bernstein, director of the center for climate change and global environment at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

“Pollen seasons are starting earlier and they are lasting longer,” said Dr. Lewis Ziska, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York.

Allergy sufferer Mark Thurman peeks through the tree line at the YMCA in West Barnstable where he works as the tree pollen count remains high.

The number of frost-free days is increasing, affecting plants from trees to ragweed, said Ziska, who has published research on pollen trends in the Lancet and National Academy of Sciences journal.

The longer growing seasons have a notable impact on pollen trends in New England that is more marked in Minnesota and the Dakotas, where the growing season has been extended by as much as three weeks, Ziska said.

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