Global warming will increase the sneeze-inducing pollen counts in the same regions where it will lead to increased levels of smog, according to a new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which released new maps illustrating the changes likely to come as the climate heats up.
Warmer temperatures will help certain plants, like ragweed, produce additional pollen, as the growing season lengthens and day and nighttime temperatures increase. Ozone, a major component of smog, is formed when tailpipe and smokestack emissions cook in the hot summer sun, so increased summer temperatures will also increase smog and ozone pollution.
Both pollen and smog contribute to asthma and allergies, and ozone pollution has additional impact on lung and heart health. Further, the NRDC said studies show people exposed to both simultaneously suffer more severely.
"Our analysis reveals that there is a clear interplay between high levels of smog and ragweed that could lead to intensified reactions for both allergy and asthma sufferers," said Dr. Kim Knowlton, NRDC's global warming and health specialist. "People living in some of the most populated regions of this country may be feeling the effects of global warming every allergy season."
How many? By NRDC estimates, 110 million Americans living in 308 counties, including many major cities in the Southwest, Great Lakes, Eastern Seaboard and Mississippi Valley: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Knoxville, Harrisburg, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Greensboro, Scranton, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Chicago and Charlotte.
About 36 million Americans suffer from some form of seasonal allergy, and it's estimated that 17 million children and adults in the United States suffer from asthma. Eighty percent of children and 50 percent of adults with asthma also have some type of allergy, and allergies are among the factors that can trigger asthma attacks.
Today's air quality forecast from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service calls for some moderate ozone levels across the East, and scattered in other parts of the country, by mid-afternoon. This map shows the ozone levels predicted for 4 p.m. Click the map for an interactive version, and bookmark the address to check air quality daily.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.