The School of Biomedical Sciences at the Queensland University of Technology offer a new pilot service that monitors the level of grass pollen in the air. A pollen forecast system is being developed to assist those who suffer from hay fever and seasonal asthma of the likelihood of being exposed to high levels of grass pollen, enabling sufferers to take preventative measures in danger periods.
About the service
The service aims to provide a daily pollen count of grass pollen levels in the air around Brisbane. The count are updated daily (on weekdays) and are offered free-of-charge during Brisbane’s peak allergy period from November 1 to March 31 each year. Given the different types of grasses present in Queensland and the subtropical climate, pollen forecast methods need to be specifically developed for Brisbane.
Members of the general public who suffer from the allergy conditions of hay fever and seasonal asthma benefit.
14% of Australians suffer from Allergic Rhinitis (Hay fever) are grass pollens are the major outdoor source of airborne allergens.
Why is the service important?
Hay fever and seasonal asthma can cause severe respiratory distress in sufferers. Research by the Australian Aerobiology Working Group and the Australian Pollen Allergen Partnership lead by Associate Professor Janet Davies has identified grass pollens as the major contributor to allergen sources in the outdoor atmosphere of Australian cities. Today, allergy is the "number one environmental disease", and is considered to be increasing in frequency.
If forewarned, hay fever and asthma sufferers can take preventative measures such as avoiding high pollen areas (e.g. gardens and the countryside) or by taking appropriate medication with them when venturing outside.
How it works
The School of Biomedical Sciences has the facilities to measure pollen levels in Brisbane. Daily measurements are taken and combined with the weather forecast to produce a short term grass pollen forecast. For the collection of pollen, air is sampled with a Burkard Volumetric Air Sampler located at the Queensland University of Technology. This collects the pollen grains (and of course other particles from the air) on a stick surface which is transferred to a microscope slide coated with a special glue. The slide is stained so that the pollen grains can be counted when viewed with a microscope.
The count and forecast are supplied to users of the service at the same time each day. The count is given as a qualitative assessment, on a scale from low to extremely high, and as actual values of the number of grass pollen grains per cubic meter of air/total number of all pollen types. For example, 30/105 means there were 30 grass pollen grains and 105 pollen grains of all types per cubic meter of air in the preceding 24-hr period.
Background to the service
For four years, Associate Professor Davies has collated and analysed Brisbane's airborne pollen. The School of Biomedical Sciences now provides this initial service supported by funds from sponsors.