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UCT scientists track rising pollen counts across South Africa

Hayfever sufferers in South Africa are in for a tough summer, according to scientists – but the good news is that they will now be able to track the daily tree, grass and weed pollen count for Nelson Mandela Bay among other cities.

This comes as the UCT Lung Institute predicted that another 17 million people would develop hayfever over the next few years as the pollen count rises due to global warming, reports Dispatch.

Professor Jonny Peter, who heads up the allergy unit at the institute, said they had received additional funding to track the pollen count outside of Cape Town (including Port Elizabeth) and this month launched a crowdfunding initiative to enable them to buy more pollen traps.

“While in 2019 we have managed to extend pollen monitoring to seven of the 10 biomes [large presence of flora occupying a certain area] in SA – thanks to funding provided by Clicks, Twinsaver, Thermo Fischer and A Vogel Echinaforce – our aim is to have national coverage in place before the end of the year, which is why we are calling on the public to help us reach our target by way of a crowdfunding campaign,” Dispatchreports.

“Each pollen trap costs in the region of R150,000 to maintain over a 12-month period and our goal is to set up another three traps within the next few months,” Peter said.

“There are several factors related to climate change that fuel increases in allergens.

“These include carbon dioxide [CO²] and other heat-trapping gases that are causing the earth’s temperature to rise. This, in turn, increases the growth rate of plants and the amount and potency of pollen in the air,” said Peter, according to Dispatch.

“CO² is like a miracle fertiliser for pollen and we’re producing it at a rapid rate.”

Their prediction was that the pollen count would quadruple in the next two to three decades. “This will make life unbearable for those suffering with pollen sensitivity,” he said, adding it would also mean asthma attacks would increase and people who were previously not affected would develop hayfever.

Peter said the pollen count was never taken very seriously before but in 2016 there was a spate of asthma deaths within a day in Melbourne, Australia, after a massive cloud of pollen descended on the region, Dispatchreports.

With more pollen data, Peter said public warning systems could be developed if a region became vulnerable to these types of [pollen] storms.

[link url=""]Full report in Dispatch[/link]

[link url=""]View SA pollen counts here[/link]

Full report in Dispatch

View SA pollen counts here

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