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Pollen levels in Port Elizabeth being monitored for the very first time

Oct 24, 2019
Pollen levels in Port Elizabeth being monitored for the very first time

Port Elizabeth - Hay fever sufferers in Port Elizabeth will for the first time be able to access up-to-date pollen counts for the region, thanks to funding, which has allowed the UCT Lung Institute to set up the city’s first pollen spore sampler. 

Prof Jonny Peter, Head of the UCT Lung Institute’s Allergy Unit says while there are numerous websites and apps that supposedly forecast pollen and fungal spores for the country, these counts are inaccurate and are often extrapolated from overseas data that has no bearing on SA.

While it’s been the responsibility of the UCT Lung Institute to monitor pollen in SA, funding has been a challenge.

Certain provinces have been monitored sporadically in the past, but it came to a halt in the ‘90s. This year though, the record high pollen counts recorded in Europe and the US, have fuelled a renewed interest in monitoring airborne allergens as they can pose a significant risk to human health.

“Climate change is having a dramatic impact on pollen production and the severity of seasons. Factors such as rising temperatures and CO2 levels are driving up pollen levels globally, causing misery for millions of hay fever sufferers.

“As seasons worsen, it has become crucial for local scientists to keep a closer eye on pollen and other allergens in the air. Experts predict that pollen counts will quadruple in the next 20 to 30 years, making life unbearable for those with pollen sensitivities, and people who don’t normally suffer from hay fever may likely start to. Asthma attacks may also increase,” he says.  

Thus far pollen counts have been low in Port Elizabeth due to high rainfall, compared to other parts of the country, but with the threat of other allergic plants, such as ragweed (typically found in Europe) migrating southward, we could see a significant increase in pollen levels in the future.

While pollen counts are available to PE residents for now, the institute’s funding dries up in 11 months, which is why it is calling on the community to donate towards its pollen monitoring efforts by way of a crowdfunding campaign that will help to make the programme more sustainable.

“Monitoring pollen on a more regular basis will help scientists to better understand the impact of global warming on pollen seasons in SA and how pollen is evolving in order to develop more effective treatments for local conditions,” he says.

To donate towards pollen monitoring, visit www.pollencount.co.za. Pollen counts for PE can also be accessed here. 

Image: From left: Lynne Quick, research associate and Erin Hilmer, lab technician from Nelson Mandela Bay University are responsible for managing PE’s first pollen spore sampler, which will allow hay fever sufferers in PE to access up-to-date pollen counts via www.pollencount.co.za

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