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The relationship between birch pollen, air pollution and weather types and their effect on antihistamine purchase in two Swedish cities

Journal article
Authors Maria Grundström
Åslög Dahl
Tinghai Ou
Deliang Chen
Håkan Pleijel
Published in Aerobiologia
Volume 33
Issue 4
Pages 457–471
ISSN 0393-5965
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 457–471
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10453-017-9478-...
Keywords Air pollution, Antihistamine, Betula, Birch, Pollen, Weather type
Subject categories Environmental Sciences, Climate Research, Terrestrial ecology

Abstract

© 2017 The Author(s)Exposure to elevated air pollution levels can aggravate pollen allergy symptoms. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between airborne birch (Betula) pollen, urban air pollutants NO2, O3 and PM10 and their effects on antihistamine demand in Gothenburg and Malmö, Sweden, 2006–2012. Further, the influence of large-scale weather pattern on pollen-/pollution-related risk, using Lamb weather types (LWTs), was analysed. Daily LWTs were obtained by comparing the atmospheric pressure over a 16-point grid system over southern Sweden (scale ~3000 km). They include two non-directional types, cyclonic (C) and anticyclonic (A) and eight directional types depending on the wind direction (N, NE, E…). Birch pollen levels were exceptionally high under LWTs E and SE in both cities. Furthermore, LWTs with dry and moderately calm meteorological character (A, NE, E, SE) were associated with strongly elevated air pollution (NO2 and PM10) in Gothenburg. For most weather situations in both cities, simultaneously high birch pollen together with high air pollution had larger over-the-counter (OTC) sales of antihistamines than situations with high birch pollen alone. LWTs NE, E, SE and S had the highest OTC sales in both cities. In Gothenburg, the city with a higher load of both birch pollen and air pollution, the higher OTC sales were especially obvious and indicate an increased effect on allergic symptoms from air pollution. Furthermore, Gothenburg LWTs A, NE, E and SE were associated with high pollen and air pollution levels and thus classified as high-risk weather types. In Malmö, corresponding high-risk LWTs were NE, E, SE and S. Furthermore, occurrence of high pollen and air pollutants as well as OTC sales correlated strongly with vapour pressure deficit and temperature in Gothenburg (much less so in Malmö). This provides evidence that the combination of meteorological properties associated with LWTs can explain high levels of birch pollen and air pollution. Our study shows that LWTs represent a useful tool for integrated daily air quality forecasting/warning.

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