Paris, 5 December 2011
Pollen allergies constitute a serious public health problem. In Europe, around 20% of children are affected. To better understand how climate and environmental change impacts human health, especially certain allergic diseases, a research project dubbed Atopica(2) and funded by the European Commission for a three-year period has just been launched. This interdisciplinary project brings together biologists, immunologists, allergists and dermatologists as well as physicists, climatologists, air quality experts and land use specialists(3).
Atopica aims to better understand the extent to which global and regional climate, land use and air quality impact pollen-related allergies. More specifically, the mission of the two French laboratories involved, the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (CNRS/CEA/UVSQ) and the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (CNRS/UPMC/ENS/Ecole Polytechnique) will be to develop statistical and physical models of changes in the pollen content of Europe's air. INERIS's job will be to model concentrations of air pollutants (ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulates, etc). The model will be used to study the impact of pollutants on pollen allergenicity and assess the exposure of populations to the combined effect of pollen and air quality levels. The ultimate aim is to make an assessment of health risks, especially for populations at risk such as children and the elderly. In addition, Atopica will provide a retrospective analysis of various allergens over the past twenty years in Europe as well as their relationship to climate and land use change.
One of the key areas that Atopica will focus on is a new and highly allergenic invasive species in Europe, Ambrosia artemisiifolia L., commonly known as Common Ragweed, and the ways in which it spreads. This is a plant that grows on abandoned farmland and roadsides. In France, it is already proliferating in the Rhône valley, where its pollen is causing numerous health problems. It may also have an economic impact on tourism.
The conclusions of the Atopica project will serve as recommendations to policy makers, who will thus be able to contemplate preventive measures while taking into account the ratio of the cost of treatment to the benefits in terms of public health.
(1) Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE, CNRS/CEA/UVSQ) and Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD, CNRS/UPMC/ENS/Ecole Polytechnique), which both belong to the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace. Both laboratories belong to the GIS Climat Environnement Société (Climate-Environment-Society Consortium), which enabled them to take part in the project (the existence of a coordinated French consortium making it possible to participate in a European project).
(2) Atopic diseases in changing climate, land use and air quality
(3) These scientists study alterations to the natural environment caused by human activity such as farming practices and management of forests and urban areas.
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