01 September 2016
- Air Quality

EFA was invited to open the European Symposium on Aerobiology celebrated in Lyon from the 18th-22nd July. The event was organised by the European Aerobiology Society and aimed to share latest research on forescast modelling, climate change or ragweed. EFA’s Roberta Savli brought the respiratory and allergic patients perspective to the event in a joint presentation with ESA President Michel Thibaudon. The presentation is at the end of this article. 

To date, elements considered “pollutants” have been understood as man-made, this is, originated by human activities that may impact negatively human health, provoking unhealthy effects that should be avoided.

Many European countries and the European Commission have regulated pollutants, to reduce their harm to our lives. There is a great deal of legislative texts covering chemical pollutants as well as outdoor and indoor air pollutants. However, these norms do not regulate biological particles present in the air, like pollens, even if they significantly impact the health and quality of life of 150 million people in Europe.

People’s daily lives are affected by pollen. Roberta reaffirmed EFA’s asks to have real-time pollen monitoring systems and to set pollen levels to set what is man-made pollen from intensive agriculture.

Michel Thibaudon explained how together with EFA we wrote twice to the EU ex-Commissioner of Environment Mr Janez Potočnik and to the Members of the European Parliament to have pollen forecast. Despite our scientific data demonstrating the atmospheric concentrations of these biological particles, and health and social data showing the impact pollen pollution has in our health and economies, there has not been the political willingness needed to improve the situation.

Unfortunately, we were told that biological particles are natural and not anthropogenic, but that is restrictive to the forest and open nature. This approach does not take into account our urban areas that are colonized by allergenic species such as cypress, olive trees, birch, plane trees, ornamental grasses and ragweed, all planted and chosen by people. Neither it covers those industrial activities that increase pollen allerginiticy.

Allergy and respiratory patients have been seen as second-class patients, living with the burden of an underdiagnosed disease, often non-reimbursed, with scarce research budgets, and poor prevention. However, accurate knowledge of prevalent aeroallergens can improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients with pollen allergy. Pollen information is crucial for patients as it enables a timely start of the preventive and symptomatic treatment of seasonal allergy problems.

Yet we are missing the legal framework to make this a reality. At the moment, there is no obligation to monitor and communicate about the pollen situation in Europe, in contrast to air quality regulations. Without European recommendation or legislations regulating pollen, it is likely that many European countries will no longer be able to support aerobiological monitoring.

Please find the full Michel Thibaudon and Roberta Savli's presentation, Is pollen a pollutant?

More information about the European Symposium for Aerobiology visit their website.

To know more about the effects of pollen in our health, please visit our dedicated pollen section

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The EFA Team