Chandigarh: In a first-of-its kind in India, a team of researchers have conducted a study to examine the seasonal periodicities of airborne pollen spectrum and developed a pollen calendar for the city that can turn into big help for millions who suffer from related allergies.
Pollen is released by plants, making millions of people suffer from hay fever, pollinosis and allergic rhinitis.
The group of scientists from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) and Panjab University, both in Chandigarh, has explored the main pollen seasons, their intensities, variations and aerobiologically significant pollen types in Chandigarh.
Pollen grains are male biological structures with the primary role of fertilization, but when inhaled by humans, they may strain the respiratory system and cause allergies.
They are found suspended in the air and cause widespread upper respiratory tract and naso-bronchial allergy with manifestations like asthma, seasonal rhinitis, and bronchial irritation.
About 20-30 per cent of the population suffers from allergic rhinitis or hay fever in India, and approximately 15 per cent develop asthma. Pollens are considered major outdoor airborne allergens responsible for allergic rhinitis, asthma, and atopic dermatitis in humans.
The researchers comprise Ravindra Khaiwal, Additional Professor of Environmental Health, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, and Ashutosh Aggarwal, Professor and Head, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, both from the PGIMER, and Suman Mor, Chairperson and Associate Professor, including Akshi Goyal and Sahil Kumar, both research scholars, all from the Department of Environment Studies, Panjab University.
The study revealed the first pollen calendar for Chandigarh to provide up-to-date information and highlight the variability of crucial pollen types in different seasons.
The prominent airborne pollen dominating seasons were spring and autumn, with maximum species when the phenological and meteorological parameters are considered favorable for pollen grains' growth, dispersion, and transmission.
Lead investigator Khaiwal told IANS that Chandigarh has reported a remarkable increase in forest cover in recent years. A rise in green spaces would also increase airborne pollen, consequently increasing pollen-related allergic ailments.
Mor highlighted that the study aims to bring airborne pollen seasonal information to the susceptible population, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and scientists to be familiar with the current changes in the environment, which can further help develop mitigation strategies.
Aggarwal said the finding of this study would enhance the understanding of airborne pollen seasons, which may further help to minimize pollen allergies.
The airborne pollen calendar provides a clear understating for clinicians and allergy sufferers to identify potential allergy triggers and help limit their exposure during high pollen loads, said Khaiwal.
He further added that most of the pollen species found in the study are considered to have high allergy-causing potential, such as Alnus sp., Betula sp., Cannabis sativa, Eucalyptus sp., Morus alba, Pinus sp., Parthenium hysterophorus, Amaranthaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Poaceae, etc.
The study is recently published in Atmospheric Environment, a reputed peer-reviewed international journal by Elsevier.