Here’s something you might take for granted. That those allergies that have you hacking and sniffling and first-world whining won’t, next year or another one further down the line, get cranked up a bit and turn a severe annoyance into a situation of having to carry around a variety of emergency lifesaving devices — EpiPen, Benedryl strips, a selection of masks — and, generally speaking, rearranging your life. Nah, it won’t get worse and worse every year until you’re living in a pod a la Safe.
But I don’t think most allergy sufferers think in doomsday terms — some, yes, like my friend that’s allergic to all poultry. But not day-to-day Claritin poppers so much. In other words, we assume some relative stability in this sort of chronic condition — our pollen allergy isn’t going to jump up to stage-four next spring. The problem here is that we’re also assuming the environmental situations that cause are allergies will remain static — which is pretty stupid.
As you can surely tell from the title — and being called stupid — something is up. Climate change. Our warming sphere looks to be increasingly conducive to much higher average pollen levels as we move into the near future, according to a study by allergist allergist Leonard Bielory, M.D being presented this at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Look for a doubling in average pollen counts by the year 2040, when the situation should peak. This is based simply on test chambers of allergenic plants exposed to different levels of predicted future CO2 concentrations. Easy enough.
My favorite part is that Bielory is suggesting we get on this problem now. Not in the sense of lobbying whoever to demand policy changes, but this: “If allergy sufferers begin long-term treatment such as immunotherapy (allergy shots) now, they will have relief long before 2040 becomes a reality.” I’m not actually sure a doubling in pollen counts would result in widespread health emergencies, but, in thinking about my worst allergy season ever (‘94 or ’95?), it could be enough to make life hell for a lot of people. Maybe heed Bielory’s advice if you’re in the super-susceptible category — or move to the desert, which I recommend for a variety of reasons — though it’s actually just tiny slice of the health problems we’re facing as a planet as a result of climate change (see also: West Nile).
On a related note, poison ivy looks to be entering its golden era too. Not only does it thrive more than any other woodland plant in a high-CO2 environment, that same environment causes its toxicity to increase. So whatever reaction you’d have to poison ivy in the year 2012, will be much worse in the future. Which is actually a bit horrifying. I’d say “wear long pants,” but maybe just don’t go outside. Or leave your safe-pod.
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