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Mapping allergenic pollen vegetation in UK to study environmental exposure and human health

McInnes, Rachel N., Hemming, Deborah, Burgess, Peter, Lyndsay, Donna, Osborne, Nicholas J., Skjøth, Carsten Ambelas, Thomas, Sam, Vardoulakis, Sotiris
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.599-600 pp. 483-499
Alnus, Artemisia vulgaris, Betula, Corylus, Fraxinus, Pinus, Plantago, Poaceae, Quercus, Rumex, Salix, Urtica, air quality, allergenicity, asthma, environmental exposure, flowers, grasses, hay fever, hospitals, human health, meteorological data, methodology, models, pollen, risk assessment, trees, vegetation, weeds, United Kingdom
Allergenic pollen is produced by the flowers of a number of trees, grasses and weeds found throughout the UK. Exposure to such pollen grains can exacerbate pollen-related asthma and allergenic conditions such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Maps showing the location of these allergenic taxa have many applications: they can be used to provide advice on risk assessments; combined with health data to inform research on health impacts such as respiratory hospital admissions; combined with weather data to improve pollen forecasting systems; or as inputs to pollen emission models. In this study we present 1km resolution maps of 12 taxa of trees, grass and weeds found in the UK. We have selected the main species recorded by the UK pollen network. The taxa mapped in this study were: Alnus (alder), Fraxinus (ash), Betula (birch), Corylus (hazel), Quercus (oak), Pinus (pine) and Salix (willow), Poaceae (grass), Artemisia (mugwort), Plantago (plantain), Rumex (dock, sorrels) and Urtica (nettle). We also focus on one high population centre and present maps showing local level detail around the city of London. Our results show the different geographical distributions of the 12 taxa of trees, weeds and grass, which can be used to study plants in the UK associated with allergy and allergic asthma. These maps have been produced in order to study environmental exposure and human health, although there are many possible applications. This novel method not only provides maps of many different plant types, but also at high resolution across regions of the UK, and we uniquely present 12 key plant taxa using a consistent methodology. To consider the impact on human health due to exposure of the pollen grains, it is important to consider the timing of pollen release, and its dispersal, as well as the effect on air quality, which is also discussed here.