Advertisement

EcoHealth

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 99–108 | Cite as

Pollen Loads and Allergic Rhinitis in Darwin, Australia: A Potential Health Outcome of the Grass-Fire Cycle

  • Fay H. JohnstonEmail author
  • Ivan C. Hanigan
  • David M. J. S. Bowman
Original Contribution

Abstract

Although the prevalence of asthma and allergic rhinitis has been increasing in tropical regions, little is known about the allergenicity of pollens from tropical plant families or the importance of ongoing environmental changes. We investigated associations between daily average pollen counts of several tropical plant families and sales of medications for the treatment of allergic rhinitis in Darwin, Australia—a tropical setting in which grass abundance has increased due to increased fire frequencies and the introduction of African pasture grasses. Daily pollen counts with detailed identification of plant species were undertaken in conjunction with a weekly survey of flowering plant species from April 2004 to November 2005. Five pharmacies provided daily sales data of selected medications commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis. We used generalized linear modeling to examine outcomes. All analyses accounted for the potential confounding effects of time trends, holidays, respiratory viral illnesses, meteorological conditions, and air pollution. The peak total pollen count was 94 grains/m3. Despite the low levels of Poaceae (grass) pollen (maximum daily count, 24 grains/m3), there was a clear association with daily sales of anti-allergic medications greatest at a lag of 1 day. Sales increased by 5% with an interquartile range rise (3 grain/m3) in Poaceae pollen (5.07%, 95%CI 1.04%, 9.25%). No associations were observed with pollen from other plant families. Although further testing is required, we suggest that an overlooked aspect of the “grass-fire cycle” that is degrading many tropical landscapes, could be an increase in the prevalence of allergic rhinitis.

Keywords

landscape change grass-fire cycle tropics pollen allergic rhinitis medication 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Simon Haberle, Janelle Stevenson, Dominique O'Dea, David Parry, Michael Foley, Janelle Fisher, Judy Manning, Mark Myerscough, Anne Myerscough and Francoise Foti contributed to data acquisition for this study. Geoff Morgan provided advice.

Funding

Australian Research Council. Grant LP034543.

References

  1. Anderson HR, Ponce de Leon A, Bland JM, Bower JS, Emberlin J, Strachan DP (1998) Air pollution, pollens, and daily admissions for asthma in London 1987–92. Thorax 53:842–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersson K, Lidholm J (2003) Characteristics and immunobiology of grass pollen allergens. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 130:87–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson RW, Strachan DP, Anderson HR, Hajat S, Emberlin J (2006) Temporal associations between daily counts of fungal spores and asthma exacerbations. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 63:580–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beasley R, Crane J, Lai CKW, Pearce N (2000) Prevalence and etiology of asthma. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 105:466–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beggs PJ (2004) Impacts of climate change on aeroallergens: past and future. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 34:1507–1513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Behbehani N, Arifhodzic N, Al-Mousawi M, Marafie S, Ashkanani L, Moussa M, et al. (2004) The seasonal variation in allergic rhinitis and its correlation with outdoor allergens in Kuwait. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 133:164–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bjorksten B, Clayton T, Ellwood P, Stewart A, Strachan D (2008) Worldwide time trends for symptoms of rhinitis and conjunctivitis: Phase III of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 19:110–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowman DMJS, Dingle JK, Johnston FH, Parry D, Foley M (2007a) Seasonal patterns in biomass smoke pollution and the mid 20th century transition from Aboriginal to European fire management in northern Australia. Global Ecology and Biogeography 16:246–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bowman DMJS, Franklin DC, Price OF, Brook BW (2007b) Land management affects grass biomass in the Eucalyptus tetrodonta savannas of monsoonal Australia. Austral Ecology 32:446–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cakmak S, Dales RE, Burnett RT, Judek S, Coates F, Brook JR (2002) Effect of airborne allergens on emergency visits by children for conjunctivitis and rhinitis. The Lancet 359:947–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cashel P, Newhouse BS, Estelle L (2004) Correlation of environmental factors with asthma and rhinitis symptoms in Tulsa, OK. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 92:356–366.Google Scholar
  12. Chew FT, Lim SH, Shang HS, Siti Dahlia MD, Goh DYT, Lee BW, et al. (2000) Evaluation of the allergenicity of tropical pollen and airborne spores in Singapore. Allergy 55:340–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. D’Antonio C, Vitousek P (1992) Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 23:63–87.Google Scholar
  14. Dales RE, Cakmak S, Judek S, Dann T, Coates F, Brook JR, et al. (2004) Influence of outdoor aeroallergens on hospitalization for asthma in Canada. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 113:303–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dominici F, McDermott A, Hastie TJ (2004) Improved semiparametric time series models of air pollution and mortality. Journal of the American Statistical Association 99:938–948.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elliott LP, Franklin DC, Bowman DMJS (2009) Frequency and season of fires varies with distance from settlement and grass composition in Eucalyptus miniata savannas of the Darwin region of northern Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18:61–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frenz DA (2001) Interpreting atmospheric pollen counts for use in clinical allergy: allergic symptomology. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 86:150–157.Google Scholar
  18. Fuhrman C, Sarter H, Thibaudon M, Delmas MC, Zeghnoun A, Lecadet J, et al. (2007) Short-term effect of pollen exposure on antiallergic drug consumption. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 99:225–231.Google Scholar
  19. Gaut BS (2002) Evolutionary dynamics of grass genomes. New Phytologist 154:15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gras J, Parry D, Jong T, Mungksgaad N, Ayers G, Keywood M, et al. (2001) A Pilot Study of the Air Quality in Darwin NT, Darwin, Australia: Northern Territory Government, Department of Infrastructure Planning and EnvironmentGoogle Scholar
  21. Hanigan IC, Johnston FH (2007) Respiratory hospital admissions were associated with ambient airborne pollen in Darwin, Australia, 2004–2005. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 37:1556–1565.Google Scholar
  22. Hanigan IC, Johnston FH, Morgan GG (2008) Vegetation fire smoke, indigenous status and cardio-respiratory hospital admissions in Darwin, Australia, 1996–2005. BMC Environmental Health. doi: 10.1186/1476-069X-7-42
  23. Hansen MC, Stehman SV, Potapov PV, Loveland TR, Townshend JRG, DeFries RS, et al. (2008) Humid tropical forest clearing from 2000 to 2005 quantified by using multitemporal and multiresolution remotely sensed data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 105:9439–9444Google Scholar
  24. Hauser R, Rice TM, Krishna Murthy GG, Wand MP, Lewis D, Bledsoe T, et al. (2003) The upper airway response to pollen is enhanced by exposure to combustion particulates: a pilot human experimental challenge study. Environmental Health Perspectives 111:472–477.Google Scholar
  25. Johnston FH, Bailie R, Pilotto L, Hanigan I (2007) Ambient biomass smoke and cardio-respiratory hospital admissions. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-7-240
  26. Lohman DJ, Bickford D, Sodhi NS (2007) The burning issue. Science 316:376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mohapatra SS, Lockey RF, Shirley S (2005) Immunobiology of grass pollen allergens. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports 5:381–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mouillot F, Field CB (2005) Fire history and the global carbon budget: a 1 9 1 fire history reconstruction for the 20th century. Global Change Biology 11:398–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nepstad D, Carvalho G, Cristina Barros A, Alencar A, Paulo Capobianco J, Bishop J, et al. (2001) Road paving, fire regime feedbacks, and the future of Amazon forests. Forest Ecology and Management 154:395–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nicolaou N, Siddiqui N, Custovic A (2005) Allergic disease in urban and rural populations: increasing prevalence with increasing urbanization. Allergy 60:13571360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Peden DB (2001) Effect of pollutants in rhinitis. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports 1:242246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Puc M, Puc MI (2004) Allergenic airborne grass pollen in Szczecin, Poland. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine 11:237–244.Google Scholar
  33. R Foundation for Statistical Computing (2006) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing, Version 2.4.0., Vienna, Austria.Google Scholar
  34. Radauer C, Breiteneder H (2006) Pollen allergens are restricted to few protein families and show distinct patterns of species distribution. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 117:141–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rapiejko P, Stanlaewicz W, Szczygielski K, Jurkiewicz D (2007) Threshold pollen count necessary to evoke allergic symptoms. Otolaryngologia Polska 61:591–594.Google Scholar
  36. Ross AM, Corden JM, Fleming DM (1996) The role of oak pollen in hay fever consultations in general practice and the factors influencing patients’ decisions to consult. The British Journal of General Practice 46:451.Google Scholar
  37. Rossiter-Rachor NA (2008) Effects of Andropogon gayanus (Gamba Grass) Invasion on Ecosystem Nitrogen Dynamics in an Australian Tropical Savanna. Thesis, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  38. Salib RJ, Harries PG, Nair SB, Howarth PH (2008) Mechanisms and mediators of nasal symptoms in non-allergic rhinitis. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 38:393–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Saxon A, Diaz-Sanchez D (2005) Air pollution and allergy: you are what you breathe. Nature Immunology 6:223–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Singh AB, Kumar P (2003) Aeroallergens in clinical practice of allergy in India: an overview. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine 10:131–136.Google Scholar
  41. Stevenson J, Haberle SG, Johnston FH, Bowman DMJS (2007) Seasonal distribution of pollen in the atmosphere of Darwin, tropical Australia: preliminary results. Grana 46:1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stieb DM, Beveridge RC, Brook JR, Smith-Doiron M, Burnett RT, Dales RE, et al. (2000) Air pollution, aeroallergens and cardiorespiratory emergency department visits in Saint John, Canada. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology 10:461–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tobias A, Galan I, Banegas JR (2004) Non-linear short-term effects of airborne pollen levels with allergenic capacity on asthma emergency room admissions in Madrid, Spain. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 34:871–878.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Turner BL, Lambin EF, Reenberg A (2007) Land change science special feature: the emergence of land change science for global environmental change and sustainability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104:20666–20671Google Scholar
  45. van der Werf GR, Randerson JT, Giglio L, Collatz GJ, Kasibhatla PS, Arellano AF Jr (2006) Interannual variability in global biomass burning emissions from 1997 to 2004. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 6:3423–3441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wang JY, Chen WY (1992) Inhalant allergens in asthmatic children in Taiwan: comparison evaluation of skin testing, radioallergosorbent test and multiple allergosorbent chemiluminescent assay for specific IgE. Journal of the Formosan Medical Association 91:1127–1132.Google Scholar
  47. Wood SN (2004) Stable and efficient multiple smoothing parameter estimation for generalized additive models. Journal of the American Statistical Association 99:673–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fay H. Johnston
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ivan C. Hanigan
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • David M. J. S. Bowman
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Menzies Research InstituteUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.School for Environmental ResearchCharles Darwin UniversityDarwinAustralia
  3. 3.National Centre for Epidemiology and Population HealthAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.School of Plant ScienceUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

Personalised recommendations