From Green Right Now Reports

Get ready to sneeze. There’s another study out showing that your seasonal allergies will worsen as carbon dioxide levels rise.

Timothy grass (Photo: Mary Jelks, University of Tulsa)

Timothy grass (Photo: Mary Jelks, University of Tulsa)

This one, published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives, finds that increasing levels of CO2 in the air drive increased production of fungal spores, including some associated with allergies and asthma.

Plants have different responses to CO2, but this study found that one common response is that they grow more massive as CO2 rises. As the carbon-nitrogen ratio in the air grows, so do these plants leaves. The change in the carbon-nitrogen air being respirated causes a change in the plant’s production of carbohydrates — which are rich in carbon and proteins, which leads to a change in the nutritional uptake of anything feeding on the plant, in this case, the fungi.

In the study, by the USDA and private public health experts, the researchers looked at one type of common fungus, Alternaria alternata, to see how it reacted to varying levels of carbon dioxide in the air. The study used Timothy grass as the food source for the fungus. The researchers grew the grass in controlled chambers each with a different CO2 air level: one replicated 19th-century levels, another was at current levels, and two were at higher levels based on what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted could exist in 2025 or 2040 as climate change progresses.

The result found that the Timothy grass grown at the highest carbon level supported an Alternaria alternata fungus that produced three times as many spores, each of which carried nearly double the normal concentration of allergy antigens.

It concluded that allergy sufferers can expect rocky times ahead as climate change continues and accelerates. “…For allergy and asthma sufferers, exposure to fungal spores may be an increasing problem as atmospheric CO2 levels rise,” notes a release on the study.

Authors of the article are Julie Wolf, a graduate student in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland; Nichole R. O’Neill and Lewis H. Ziska at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, run by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service; and Christine A. Rogers and Michael L. Muilenberg at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences.