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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    In Connecticut, 'perfect storm' of conditions lead to high pollen count

    Jun. 10—With spring melting into summer, Connecticut is experiencing all the usual sights: pollen film covering cars, buildings and other surfaces and "cotton fluff" floating around.

    Over the past few weeks, the state has experienced high pollen levels, with the coming week tracking for similar conditions, according to data from The Weather Company. Grass-based pollens, in particular, are seeing "very high" levels in Connecticut.

    According to Mark Brand, professor of Horticulture and Plant Breeding at UConn, this year has been a "bumper year for most of the normal pollen aggravators."

    "Anecdotally, I can tell you everyone has been complaining ... about how much pollen there has been," Brand added.

    What is 'cotton fluff'?

    Some Connecticut residents have also noticed the accumulation of seeds from Connecticut's native Eastern cottonwood trees — described as "cotton fluff" — blown around roads. Though these seeds are prevalent during allergy season, allergists say that seeds from cottonwood trees are mostly pollen-free when they release, and are often not the cause of spring allergies.

    These seeds, which are described as a "cotton ball of hairs," can clump together and clog up radiators and air conditioners. Brand said that these seeds can be "annoying," but are essential biologically for the species to spread. He added that the state is "past the worst of it now," but they are normal to encounter, especially in large clumps.

    Why is the pollen count high in CT?

    Brand said that there has been a "perfect storm" of conditions that have led to a "real heavy pollen crop" including having a mild winter, adequate and regular rainfall this spring and overall mild and warm weather.

    The increase in allergens in Connecticut is linked to worsening climate change conditions, including "shifts in precipitation patterns, more frost-free days and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," according to state Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani.

    "[The lack of cold weather] allows the trees and things to pollinate sooner in the season because they weren't frozen," Juthani told Hearst Connecticut in March. "So, they're waking up sooner than they have in previous years. There's an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as well," which Juthani said encourages trees and other pollinating plants to increase the amount of pollen produced.

    Three cities in Connecticut were ranked among the 100 worst for allergies and asthma in 2024 by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. New Haven was number 39, followed by Hartford at number 43 and Bridgeport at number 68.

    Connecticut has no state-produced pollen counters, which is why a house bill was raised earlier this year for one to implemented by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "An Act Concering the Performance of a Pollen Count" (Raised H.B. No. 5349) was introduced by the Environment Committee in February. The furthest progress the proposed bill made was on April 9 when it was referred to the Committee on Appropriations. Connecticut's legislative session for 2024 adjourned on May 8.

    What should allergy sufferers do?

    To alleviate symptoms from pollen allergies, the state recommends staying inside when pollen counts are high. When inside, use air conditioning and air filters, and change furnace filters regularly. If going outside, the state says to wear a dust mask and wrap-around sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting in the eyes, nose and mouth. When moving from outside to inside, showers will help to remove any excess pollen.

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