Skip to main content

Impact of Climate Change on Pollen and Respiratory Disease

Abstract

Purpose of Review

A warming world will impact everyone and everything. The practice of allergic and respiratory disease will not be excepted. All the impacts will be impossible to anticipate. This review is intended to discuss significant factors related to individuals with allergic and respiratory disease.

Recent Findings

Recent findings include the increased growth of allergenic plants in response to higher carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures. This also contributes to the increased production of pollen as well as the appearance of allergenic species in new climactic areas. Stinging insects will extend their ranges into northern areas where they have not previously been a problem. The shift and extension of pollen seasons with warmer springs and later frosts have already been observed. Recent severe hurricanes and flooding events may be just the harbinger of increasing damp housing exposure related to sea level rise. Evidence is accumulating that indicates the expected higher number of ozone alert days and increased pollution in populated areas is bringing increases in pollen potency. Finally, increased exposure to smoke and particles from wild fires, resulting from heat waves, will contribute to the general increase in respiratory disease.

Summary

The practice of allergy being closely aligned with environmental conditions will be especially impacted. Allergists should consider increasing educational activities aimed at making patients more aware of air quality conditions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

  1. NOAA. National Centers for Environmental Information. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdoweb/datatools/records. Accessed 8/13/2018.

  2. Glick D. The Big Thaw. As the climate warms, how much, and how quickly, will Earth’s glaciers melt? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/big-thaw/. Accessed 8/13/2018.

  3. Schirber M. Global warming makes sea less salty. https://www.livescience.com/3883-global-warming-sea-salty.html. Accessed 8/16/2018.

  4. Barnes C, Alexis NE, Bernstein JA, Cohn JR, Demain JG, Horner E, et al. Climate change and our environment: the effect on respiratory and allergic disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2013;1(2):137–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Wayne P, Foster S, Connolly J, Bazzaz F, Epstein P. Production of allergenic pollen by ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) is increased in CO2-enriched atmospheres. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002;88(3):279–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. El Kelish A, Zhao F, Heller W, Durner J, Winkler JB, Behrendt H, et al. Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) pollen allergenicity: SuperSAGE transcriptomic analysis upon elevated CO2 and drought stress. BMC Plant Biol. 2014;14:176. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-22.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Ziska LH, Gebhard DE, Frenz DA, Faulkner S, Singer BD, Straka JG. Cities as harbingers of climate change: common ragweed, urbanization, and public health. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003;111(2):290–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Rogers CA, Wayne PM, Macklin EA, Muilenberg ML, Wagner CJ, Epstein PR, et al. Interaction of the onset of spring and elevated atmospheric CO2 on ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) pollen production. Environ Health Perspect. 2006;114(6):865–9.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bryce M, Drews O, Schenk MF, Menzel A, Estrella N, Weichenmeier I, et al. Impact of urbanization on the proteome of birch pollen and its chemotactic activity on human granulocytes. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2010;151(1):46–55. https://doi.org/10.1159/000232570.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Emberlin J, Detandt M, Gehrig R, Jaeger S, Nolard N, Rantio-Lehtimäki A. Responses in the start of Betula (birch) pollen seasons to recent changes in spring temperatures across Europe. Int J Biometeorol. 2002;46(4):159–70.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Zhang Y, Bielory L, Cai T, Mi Z, Georgopoulos P. Predicting onset and duration of airborne allergenic pollen season in the United States. Atmos Environ (1994). 2015;103:297–306.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. USDA. Agricultural Research Service. http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/.

  13. Levetin E, Van de Water P. Changing pollen types/concentrations/distribution in the United States: fact or fiction? Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2008;8(5):418–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Beck I, Jochner S, Gilles S, McIntyre M, Buters JT, Schmidt-Weber C, et al. High environmental ozone levels lead to enhanced allergenicity of birch pollen. PLoS One. 2013;8(11):e80147. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080147 eCollection 2013.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Eckl-Dorna J, Klein B, Reichenauer TG, Niederberger V, Valenta R. Exposure of rye (Secale cereale) cultivars to elevated ozone levels increases the allergen content in pollen. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010;126:1315–7.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Cuinica LG, Cruz A, Abreu I, da Silva JC. Effects of atmospheric pollutants (CO, O3, SO2) on the allergenicity of Betula pendula, Ostrya carpinifolia, and Carpinus betulus pollen. Int J Environ Health Res. 2015;25(3):312–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/09603123.2014.938031.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Kanter U, Heller W, Durner J, Winkler JB, Engel M, Behrendt H, et al. Molecular and immunological characterization of ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) pollen after exposure of the plants to elevated ozone over a whole growing season. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e61518. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0061518 Print 2013.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. Cortegano I, Civantos E, Aceituno E, del Moral A, López E, Lombardero M, et al. Cloning and expression of a major allergen from Cupressus arizonica pollen, Cup a 3, a PR-5 protein expressed under polluted environment. Allergy. 2004;59(5):485–90.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Bartra J, Mullol J, del Cuvillo A, Dávila I, Ferrer M, Jáuregui I, et al. Air pollution and allergens. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2007;17(Suppl 2):3–8.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

  21. Garcia RA, Cabeza M, Rahbek C, Araujo MB. Multiple dimensions of climate change and their implications in biodiversity. Science. 2014;344:486–96.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Makra L, Matyasovszky I, Hufnagel L, Tusnády G. The history of ragweed in the world. Appl Ecol Environ Res. 2015;13(2):489–512.

  23. Gaudeul M, Giraud T, Kiss L, Shykoff JA. Nuclear and chloroplast microsatellites show multiple introductions in the worldwide invasion history of common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia. PLoS One. 2011;6(3):e17658.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Thaisz L. Reports of the Botanical Department about the meeting on 14th Dec. 1910. (A növénytani szakosztály 1910. évi dec. 14-én tartott 162-ik ülésének jegyzőkönyve). Botanikai Közlemények. 11:303–4.

  25. Berger U. Medical University of Vienna, Department of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head of Researchunit Aerobiology and Polleninformation. https://www.pollenwarndienst.at/en.html.

  26. Cunze S, Leiblein MC, Tackenberg O. Range expansion of Ambrosia artemisiifolia in Europe is promoted by climate change. Ecology. 2013:610126. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/610126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. •• Lake IR, Jones NR, Agnew M, Goodess CM, Giorgi F, Hamaoui-Laguel L, et al. Climate change and future pollen allergy in Europe. Environ Health Perspect. 2017;125:385–91. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP173. This study is especially interesting because it estimates the extent ragweed pollen allergy will become a problem across Europe. They expect ragweed will expanding into new areas as the climate warms.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Poulos HM. Tree mortality from a short-duration freezing event and global-change-type drought in a Southwestern piñon-juniper woodland, USA. PeerJ. 2014;2:e404. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.404 eCollection 2014.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. Volder A, Briske DD, Tjoelker MG. Climate warming and precipitation redistribution modify tree-grass interactions and tree species establishment in a warm-temperate savanna. Glob Chang Biol. 2013;19(3):843–57. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12068.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Gimeno TE, Julio Camarero J, Granda E, Pías B, Valladares F. Enhanced growth of Juniperus thurifera under a warmer climate is explained by a positive carbon gain under cold and drought. Tree Physiol. 2012;32:326–36.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. •• Flonard M, Lo E, Levetin E. Increasing Juniperus virginiana L. pollen in the Tulsa atmosphere: long-term trends, variability, and influence of meteorological conditions. Int J Biometeorol. 2018;62(2):229–41. This recent publication is of particular interest because Estelle Levetin has one of the most extensive pollen data repositories and is the foremost Aerobiologist in the US. Her insights are especially valuable.

  32. Ziska L, Knowlton K, Rogers C, Dalan D, Tierney N, Elder MA, et al. Recent warming by latitude associated with increased length of ragweed pollen season in central North America. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108(10):4248–51.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Zhang Y, Bielory L, Georgopoulos PG. Climate change effect on betula (birch) and quercus (oak) pollen seasons in the united states. Int J Biometeorol. 2014;58(5):909–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Pearse WD, Davis CC, Inouye DW, Primack RB, Davies TJ. A estimator for determining the limits of contemporary and historic phenology. Nat Ecol Evol. 2017;1:1876–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Fitter AH, Fitter RS. Rapid changes in flowering time in British plants. Science. 2002;296(5573):1689–91.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Ariano R, Canonica GW, Passalacqua G. Possible role of climate changes in variations in pollen seasons and allergic sensitizations during 27 years. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010;104(3):215–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Bogawski P, Grewling L, Nowak M, Smith M, Jackowiak B. Trends in atmospheric concentrations of weed pollen in the context of recent climate warming in Poznan (Western Poland). Int J Biometeorol. 2014;58(8):1759–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Bertin R. Plant phenology and distribution in relation to recent climate change. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society. 2008;135:126–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Kelly AE, Goulden ML. Rapid shifts in plant distribution with recent climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105:11823–11,826.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Cayan D, Kammerdiener S, Dettinger M, Caprio J, Peterson D. Changes in the onset of spring in the Western United States. Bull Am Meteorol Soc. 2001;82:399–415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. D’Amato G, Cecchi L, Bonini S, Nunes C, Annesi-Maesano I, Behrendt H, et al. Allergenic pollen and pollen allergy in Europe. Allergy. 2007;62:976–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Freye HB, King J, Litwin CM. Variations of pollen and mold concentrations in 1998 during the strong El Nino event of 1997-1998 and their impact on clinical exacerbations of allergic rhinitis, asthma, and sinusitis. Allergy Asthma Proc. 2001;22:239–47.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Hallam A. The case for sea-level change as a dominant causal factor in mass extinction of marine invertebrates. Philos Trans R Soc B. 1989;325:437–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. •• Meehl GA, Stocker TF, Collins WD, Friedlingstein P, Gaye AT, Gregory JM, et al. 2007: Global Climate Projections. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL, editors. Climate, Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Projections of Global Average Sea Level Change for the 21st Century Chapter 10. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007. p. 820. This is the most often referenced report from the IPCC. The entire report is very extensive but the executive summary is an excellent summary of all of the problems involved in climate change. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/ ) became available in 2014, but the initial report is still excellent reading.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Thaler D. Southern Fried Science. How to drown your town. http://www.southernfriedscience.com/how-to-drownyourtown-a-step-by-step-guide-to-modelling-sea-level-rise-in-google-earth/.

  46. Institute of Medicine. Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures. Committee on the Assessment of Asthma and Indoor Air. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences; 2000.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Barbeau DN, Faye Grimsley L, White LAE, El-Dahr JM. Maureen Lichtveld. Mold exposure and health effects following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Annu Rev Public Health. 2010;31(1):165–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Rueda LM, Patel KJ, Axtell RC, Stinner RE. Temperature-dependent development and survival rates of Culex quinquefasciatus and Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae). J Med Entomol. 1990;27:892–8.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Andrew NR, Hill SJ, Binns M, Bahar MH, Ridley EV, Jung M, et al. Assessing insect responses to climate change: what are we testing for? Where should we be heading? PeerJ. 2013;1:e11. Published online 2013 Feb 12. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.11.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  50. Demain JG, Gessner BD, McLaughlin JB, Sikes DS, Foote JT. Increasing insect reactions in Alaska: is this related to changing climate? Allergy Asthma Proc. 2009;30(3):238–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Rubin MB. The History Of Ozone. The Schönbein Period, 1839–1868 (PDF). Bull Hist Chem. 2001;26(1):48.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Hill L, Flack M. The Physiological Influence of Ozone. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci. 1911;84(573):404–15. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1911.0086.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. CDC. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0476.html.

  54. EPA. Basic Information about Ozone. https://www.epa.gov/ozone-pollution/basic-information-about-ozone#what%20where%20how.

  55. EPA. What is the ozone index. https://www.epa.gov/pmcourse/patient-exposure-and-air-qualityindex#what.

  56. Diaz-Sanchez D, Riedl M. Diesel effects on human health: a question of stress? Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2005;289:L722–3.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Westerling AL, Hidalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW. Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire activity. Science. 2006;313(5789):940–3.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. • Abatzoglou JT, Williams AP. Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113(42):11770–5. This is one in a series of articles that document anthropogenic climate change as a driver of increased forest fire activity.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  59. CDC. Features. Environmental Health. Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke. https://www.cdc.gov/features/wildfires/index.html.

  60. Reid CE, Brauer M, Johnston FH, Jerrett M, Balmes JR, Elliott CT. Critical review of health impacts of wildfire smoke exposure. Environ Health Perspect. 2016;124(9):1334–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Johnston FH, Purdie S, Jalaludin B, Martin KL, Henderson SB, Morgan GG. Air pollution events from forest fires and emergency department attendances in Sydney, Australia 1996-2007: a case-crossover analysis. Environ Health. 2014;13:105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. D’Amato G, Baena-Cagnani CE, Cecchi L, Annesi-Maesano I, Nunes C, Ansotegui I, et al. Climate change, air pollution and extreme events leading to increasing prevalence of allergic respiratory diseases. Multidiscip Respir Med. 2013;8:12. https://doi.org/10.1186/2049-6958-8-12.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  63. Filippidou EC, Koukouliata A. Ozone effects on the respiratory system. Prog Health Sci. 2011;1:144–55.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Whitman S, Good G, Donoghue ER, Benbow N, Shou W, Mou S. Mortality in Chicago attributed to the July 1995 heat wave. Am J Public Health. 1997;87(9):1515–8.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Barriopedro D, Fischer EM, Luterbacher J, Trigo RM, García-Herrera R. The hot summer of 2010: redrawing the temperature record map of Europe. Science. 2011;332(6026):220–4.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Meehl GA, Tebaldi C, Adams-Smith D. US daily temperature records past, present, and future. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113(49):13977–82.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Zhang K, Rood RB, Michailidis G, Oswald EM, Schwartz JD, Zanobetti A, et al. Comparing exposure metrics for classifying ‘dangerous heat’ in heat wave and health warning systems. Environ Int. 2012;46:23–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Kovats RS, Hajat SK. Heat stress and public health: a critical review. Annu Rev Public Health. 2008;29:41–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Baccini M, Biggeri A, Accetta G, Kosatsky T, Katsouyanni K, Analitis A, et al. Heat effects on mortality in 15 European cities. Epidemiology. 2008;19:711–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Tobías A, de Olalla PG, Linares C, Bleda MJ, Caylà JA, Díaz J. Short-term effects of extreme hot summer temperatures on total daily mortality in Barcelona, Spain. Int J Biometeorol. 2010;54(2):115–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. • Upperman CR, Parker JD, Akinbami LJ, Jiang C, He X, Murtugudde R, et al. Exposure to extreme heat events is associated with increased hay fever prevalence among nationally representative sample of US adults: 1997-2013. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2017;5(2):435–41. Using “big data” from the National Health Interview Survey ( n = 505,386 respondents) with extreme heat event data, these authors found an indication that exposure to extreme heat events is associated with increased prevalence of hay fever among US adults. This provides actual data support for a link that many allergists have been talking about for years.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. • D’Amato G, Vitale C, De Martino A, Viegi G, Lanza M, Molino A, et al. Effects on asthma and respiratory allergy of climate change and air pollution. Multidiscip Respir Med. 2015;10:39–43. This review by a large and distinguished group of European authors summarizes the large amount of epidemiological and experimental data amassed over many years and examines the relationship between allergic respiratory diseases, asthma and the environmental factors including meteorological variables, airborne allergens, and air pollution.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. • World Health Organization. Climate change and human health. Training course for public health professionals on protecting our health from climate change. http://www.who.int/globalchange/training/health_professionals/en/. This is an extensive course including a participant guide, a facilitator guide, visual materials, and 7 modules by eminent authors that can be used to teach community groups about climate change and some possible human responses that might help mitigate the expected changes.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Charles S. Barnes.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest relevant to this manuscript.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Additional information

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Allergies and the Environment

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Barnes, C.S. Impact of Climate Change on Pollen and Respiratory Disease. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 18, 59 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-018-0813-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-018-0813-7

Keywords

  • Pollen
  • Climate change
  • Global warming
  • Heat wave
  • Wild fire smoke
  • Damp housing
  • Sea level