Global Warming Poses a Double Threat to Health for Asthma and Allergy Sufferers

USAToday ran a story today that in Alaska, global warming is lengthening pollen seasons and increasing ground-level ozone smog concentrations - but air quality and health is being affected in the lower 48 states, too.

NRDC's report Sneezing and Wheezing: How Global Warming Could Increase Ragweed Allergies, Air Pollution, and Asthma details how rising carbon dioxide and heat can affect allergies and asthma. It also has an interactive map that you can zoom in on to see whether your county and state has a problem already with ragweed pollen and smog.

Unfortunately for human health, ragweed pollen production tends to increase with higher carbon dioxide concentrations; summertime ozone levels in many areas also tend to be higher then in part due to warmer temperatures. Hot, clear summer days with calm winds tend to increase both ozone and pollen concentrations. Global warming and increasing carbon dioxide levels are projected to worsen air quality and could threaten human health in many areas.

For example, San Antonio, Texas is among the top 15 "Asthma Capitals of 2007" identified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America as one of the most challenging places in the nation to live with asthma (based on asthma death rates, pollen levels, air pollution levels, poverty and uninsured rates, etc). And as Texas heats up more with global warming, San Antonio's ozone problem will get worse, and if you're one of the unlucky asthma sufferers there.

Among the 15 top U.S. Asthma Capitals for 2007 were:

  • Atlanta (GA)
  • Philadelphia; Harrisburg; and Scranton (PA)
  • Raleigh; Charlotte; and Greensboro (NC)
  • Knoxville (TN)
  • Little Rock (AR)
  • San Antonio (TX)
  • Milwaukee (WI)
  • Grand Rapids (MI)
  • Chicago (IL)
  • Los Angeles; and Fresno (CA)

NRDC's research found that 13 of the top 15 capitals were in counties where both ragweed and smog problems occur - and that's a double-whammy to health if you're someone with asthma and allergies. Our mapping showed that millions of Americans live in areas with both these problems. NRDC's Dr. Gina Solomon describes some of the implicaions from a physician's point of view - so please read on and consider how global warming could already be affecting the health of you and your family.