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Climate change is causing a longer and more intense allergy season across Maine, report finds

A tree begins to bloom in Yarmouth, Maine in April 2023.
Esta Pratt-Kielley
Maine Public
A tree begins to bloom in Yarmouth, Maine in April 2023.

Climate change is making allergy season longer and more intense across Maine. A recent report from the research and journalism nonprofit Climate Central says the shortened winter season has given pollen-producing plants more time to grow more allergens.

The report looked at data for over 200 U.S. cities and measured the days between the first Fall and last Spring freeze each year since 1970. The data for Maine showed the growing season for pollen plants increased by nearly two weeks for Portland and Presque Isle. Dr. Susan Anenberg chairs the Environmental and Occupational Health department at George Washington University, and is an advisor to Climate Central.

"As climate change worsens, the allergy season is worsening, and population health is worsening. And so we want to break that sequence by mitigating climate change reducing greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change. And that will slow the impact that humans are having on that allergy season," Anenberg said.

And children in Maine at risk for asthma are facing more dangers during allergy season. Dr. Lisa Patel is a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Children's Health. She said these changes are harmful to children with respiratory issues.

"Asthma in particular, it's the number one chronic condition of childhood," Patel said. "And it contributes to many lost days of learning. So in addition to what it means for a child's growth, and their ability to participate in activities that affects their ability to learn."

The report said that in addition to the longer allergy season, higher levels of CO2 in the air can also boost pollen production in plants that cause allergies.

According to the report, 80% of U.S. cities saw their pollen-plant growing seasons increase by an average of 19 days. The Center for Disease Control estimates about a quarter of adults and a fifth of all children in the U.S. are affected by seasonal allergies.

Nick Song is Maine Public's inaugural Emerging Voices Fellowship Reporter.

Originally from Southern California, Nick got his start in radio when he served as the programming director for his high school's radio station. He graduated with a degree in Journalism and History from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University -- where he was Co-News Director for WNUR 89.3 FM, the campus station.