Jasper Lindell

Canberra air quality monitors won’t track pollen counts | The Canberra Times

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The ACT government is considering ways to improve air quality monitoring across the city in the wake of last summer’s record-breaking smoke haze, but there are no specific plans to include pollen monitoring. Earlier this week, Professor Simon Haberle, a researcher at the Australian National University whose team has tracked pollen concentrations for a decade at the university’s campus, called for a wider network of pollen monitoring stations. The call came after an unprecedented number of days where extreme pollen levels were detected, driven by warm weather and rain which has combined to generate high levels of grass growth. But Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said an assessment of air quality monitoring in the ACT would not specifically consider pollen. “These options are being assessed to ensure that we are able to provide the most accurate data and relevant information to the community, with a focus on monitoring particular weather,” Ms Stephen-Smith said. The ACT government monitors five pollutants – two types of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone – as required by the National Environment Protection Council. The national measures do not require pollen monitoring. Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said she would be working closely with Ms Stephen-Smith on the “emerging issue” of air quality and public health in the ACT. “The ACT Government recognises that access to clean air, along with timely information about air quality including the smoke, pollen and other particulates, is increasingly critical as climate change drives a more variable climate and weather patterns,” Ms Vassarotti said. READ MORE: Professor Haberle said global warming would likely make the pollen season in the ACT longer and worse, with carbon dioxide thought to increase plants’ pollen production. “So all the indicators stack up to suggest that allergenic pollen will be around for longer and perhaps in more abundance as we go into the next few years,” Professor Haberle said. He said an expanded monitoring program would help public health officials issue informed warnings for people who were sensitive to pollen, while more information could help people plan for high pollen days.

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