Pollen allergies are a serious health problem as illustrated by the fact that in Europe, nearly 20% of children are affected. So, it is critical to understand how climate and environmental change impact pollen-related allergy diseases in Europe. This is why the Atopica (Atopic diseases in changing climate, land use and air quality) project was launched. The interdisciplinary three-year project funded by the European Commission brings together biologists, immunologists, allergists, dermatologists, physicists, climatologists, air quality experts and land-use specialists. Atopica conclusions will serve as recommendations to policy makers who will then be able to address preventive measures and take into account the treatment cost / public health benefits ratio.
Several CNRS, CEA and INERIS researchers and engineers are involved in the project. The Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences (CNRS/CEA/UVSQ) and the Dynamic Meteorology Laboratory (CNRS/UPMC/ENS/Ecole Polytechnique) will be developing statistical and physical models of pollen content changes in Europe's air. INERIS will be modeling concentrations of air pollutants (i.e. ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulates), which will then be used to study the impact of pollutants on pollen allergenicity and assess the exposure of populations to the combined effect of pollen and air quality levels.
The ultimate goal is to assess health risks, especially for high-risk populations such as children and older adults. The Atopica project will also provide a retrospective analysis of various allergens over the past twenty years in Europe and their relationship to climate and land use change. One of the key areas Atopica will be focusing on will be to study the ways Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. spreads. Commonly known as Common Ragweed, it is a new and highly allergenic invasive species in Europe. The plant grows on fallow farmland and on roadsides. In France, it proliferates in the Rhone Valley where its pollen is causing numerous health problems. It may also have an economic impact on tourism.