(03/19/12) HARRISBURG, Pa. - Their noses are running, their eyes are bloodshot... They are Pennsylvania's allergy sufferers, and for many of them, spring has arrived early, with all its burgeoning irritants.
Dr. Amanda Staudt, climate scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, says it's a byproduct of global warming, and this winter's warm weather will draw spring allergies out longer than usual.
"Because some of the trees are starting now and some of the trees won't get started until when they normally do, it's not going to be a great year for allergy sufferers."
She says the climate is also setting up conditions in which more kinds of trees that cause allergies can take root.
"The warmer temperatures could allow significant expansion of the habitat suitable for oaks and hickories, which are two highly-allergenic tree species. Pennsylvania is one of the states where we expect there to be a significant increase in these highly-allergenic trees, if global warming continues unchecked."
Staudt says another reality of our current climate is the financial fallout.
"Allergies and asthma already cost the United States more than $32 billion annually in direct health-care costs and lost productivity. We expect that this will only become more of a problem as more people have to resort to medication and other measures to treat their allergies."
Staudt says the situation will be even worse for those with fall allergies. She says the conditions are ideal for ragweed, the chief culprit for allergies later in the year.
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