Allergens in the air we breathe: relevance, avoidance and effect of climate change

Vortragender: Prof. Dr. Jeroen Buters, Zentrum Allergie und Umwelt (ZAUM), Technische Universität und Helmholtz Zentrum München (Homepage)
Do. 13.01.2022 (12:15-13:45)

Allergic diseases have been rising since decades, and about one in 4 to 5 individuals shows some type of allergic disease. The major allergens are proteins from pollen, house dust mite, cat and dog. Climate change affects the reproductive life cycles of plants, including pollen production, which has consequences for allergic respiratory diseases. We examined past and future climatic trends (till 2100) in Bavaria, Southern Germany. Climate change in Bavaria till today showed a trend towards a more continental climate, which is significant in the Alps in the south of the territory. The influence of climate change depended on pollen type. Birches are vulnerable to climate change as these trees are sensitive to increased temperatures and summer droughts and we studied if these trees might disappear. Pollen data from 28 monitoring stations in Bavaria were used in this study, with time series of up 30 years long. An integrative approach was used to model airborne birch pollen concentrations taking into account drivers influencing birch tree abundance and birch pollen production and projections made according to different climate change and socioeconomic scenarios. Birch tree abundance till 2100 will decrease in parts of Bavaria at different rates, depending on the climate scenario, particularly in current centres of the species distribution (close to Bayreuth). Climate change is expected to result in initial increases in pollen load but, due to the reduction in birch trees, the amount of airborne birch pollen will decrease at lower altitudes. Conversely, higher altitude areas will experience expansions in birch tree distribution and subsequent increases. The effects on grass pollen is different as these will increase.

The major indoor allergen house dust mite, and allergens from cat and dogs will not react to climate change. There other measures like air purification are more useful.
If we assume that more intense pollen seasons result in increases in prevalence and severity of allergic diseases, then the effect of exposure and climate change on public health in Bavaria may be significant. The newly installed automatic pollen monitoring system (ePIN) will be very useful in controlling allergic diseases.

Assessing exposure to airborne allergens is a major factor in controlling allergic diseases. Come and see what is new in that field.


*** invited by Prof. Carl Beierkuhlein, Biogeography



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