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Pollen is in the air

HEAL and member EFA were panellists at the final conference of ATOPICA, an EU funded research project on atopic diseases in changing climate, land use & air quality.

The final conference brought together about 100 participants from among decision-makers, ministries, stakeholders and researchers to learn about and discuss advanced research and issues across a broad range of fields impacting on human health, with a focus on pollen-related allergic disease.

Participants learned that the spread of the highly invasive weed ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) is already a problem in several EU member states. Climate change and air pollution are set to make things worse: ATOPICA scientists estimate that across Europe the number of individuals with clinically relevant Ambrosia allergy is likely to more than double by 2040-2060.

Roberta Savli from EFA (left) and Anne Stauffer from HEAL (right) both gave presentations in the morning session of the conference, and participated in a panel discussion moderated by Susanna Palkonen from EFA.

Roberta highlighted that allergy is the most common chronic disease in Europe with a prevalence of over 20%, and that the indirect costs related to untreated allergies are twice as high as those for migraine and depression. At EU level, it is therefore high time for more research into allergies, for an EU strategy on chronic diseases with best practices related to allergies and for secured real time pollen monitoring. The presentation is available here.

Anne spoke about upcoming climate and air quality policy opportunities that would help to prevent the further increase of allergy. She highlighted that air pollution was responsible for 430,000 premature deaths in 2011 alone, and that health costs related to it are quite high, with up to 930 billion EUR annually. Anne invited ATOPICA researchers and health stakeholders to present the evidence and their health voice in upcoming EU negotiations on the National Emissions Ceilings Directive as well as the Paris COP21 climate conference later this year.

At the panel discussion, participants agreed that there was an urgent need to improve pollen monitoring, but also increased funding for management of ambrosia infestation.

After all, healthy air not only means clean air free of pollution, but also pollen free.

Further information at

Originally posted on 11 March 2015

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