Another bad air week–adding the “Pollen Index” to our reports

Sunday Aug 29th was a Code Orange bad air day.

Monday Aug 30th is a Code Orange bad air day for Ozone and Code Yellow for particles.

Tuesday and Wednesday are also expected to be Code Orange for Ozone and at least Code Yellow for particles.

Wednesday and Thursday may be Code Orange for particles.

From the official forecast:

"High pressure settles over the region with light winds, full sun, and temperatures in the 90’s F through Thursday.  Ozone concentrations will reach the Code Orange range at scattered locations Sunday with a widespread regional high ozone episode likely in the Monday-Wednesday period, tapering off slowly Thursday. PM will rise later than ozone with peak PM, perhaps into the Code Orange range, for Tuesday through Thursday.  A cold front is expected to end the episode Friday."

Per usual, we remind our readers that the combination of ozone, particles, other air pollutants, and high temperatures and humidity makes for very unhealthy conditions.  Please take care, especially the young, the elderly, and those with existing health problems.

With this notice we add a new category of air quality problem:  Pollen. 

The New York Times has reported (1995):

"… from early spring to late fall, most of North America is awash in an invisible rain of pollen. First it showers down from sunlit trees, then it flies up from drying grasses and finally, toward the end of summer and through the fall until the first frost, it explodes from flowering weeds."

"Although only 8 to 10 percent of the population is allergic to airborne pollen, no one can afford to assume he or she has escaped indefinitely. Allergies develop over time, Dr. Lewis explained. More than one exposure is required. After each exposure to pollen proteins, allergy-prone individuals form antibodies that attach themselves to mast cells in the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. Once fully saturated with antibodies, the mast cells break apart and release compounds, primarily histamine, which in turn are responsible for allergic symptoms."

The Pollen Index is described this way by the Sullivan County, TN, Health Department:

"A pollen count is a measure of the amount of pollen in one cubic meter of air. Counts depend heavily on rain and wind conditions so they do fluctuate. Another monitoring tool is the pollen index which is a calculated result for each location. It takes into account historical trends, current weather conditions and the season, and is reported to be 90% accurate."

"Pollen and Allergy Forecasts" are now readily available.   See this.

Note that on a scale of 1 to 12, the forecast for this week for Green Delaware’s zip code–you can easily check your own–is:

Monday           10.8
Tuesday          10.6
Wednesday     11.10
Thursday         10.60

Again, Delaware scores in the RED.  But this index is based on a limited number of species:  Ragweed, Grass and Chenopods (pigweed, etc).

Here is a list of 46 " Significant Allergens for New castle County, DE in Summer." Again, you can easily check the lists for another locality.

So the Pollen Index may or may not be a good indicator of whether any one person will suffer from airborne allergens.

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