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Perth Pollen Count launches in WA – the state’s first and only real-time pollen monitoring and forecast service

Media release

Launched in partnership with Curtin University, the new Perth Pollen Count and Forecast Service will provide real-time environmental allergic and respiratory data for the metropolitan Perth community.

The Perth Pollen Count and Forecast Service, also known as Perth Pollen, was launched today in partnership with Curtin University to help Western Australians get a handle on hay fever season.

Perth Pollen is Western Australia’s first and only real-time pollen monitoring and forecast service. By providing grass pollen and air quality data to give those with seasonal allergies, it will create a lasting impact on the health of the community.

The initiative was launched by the University of Melbourne and University of Tasmania and is part of the move towards building Australia’s national pollen monitoring network, complementing similar services that have been launched in other states. They include Melbourne Pollen, Canberra Pollen, Sydney Pollen and the AirRater service, which have supported over one million users.

Dr Ivan Hanigan, Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Impact Assessment, Faculty of Health Sciences, Senior Lecturer in Climate Change and Health, Curtin School of Population Health, Curtin University, said the team have estimated that pollen allergy will be one of the first health impacts of climate change to be identifiable with near-real-time data from the new monitors.

“This is because climate change will change the flowering season of plants and also the allergenicity of the pollen pollution particles. This is an important public health warning about the imminent impacts of climate change on health which is my area of research and teaching at Curtin,” Dr Hanigan said.

The automated pollen monitor, located on Curtin University’s Perth campus, collects samples of air and takes holographic images of pollen in-flight and machine learning algorithms identify the different types of pollen that may trigger allergic rhinitis or asthma. This reduces labour time for researchers to focus on interpreting data and creating better forecasts to help provide people with more information so they can make more informed decisions.

Dr Ryan Mead-Hunter, Senior Lecturer in the Curtin School of Population Health, said the team are very pleased to be able to offer this much-needed service in Perth, to help Western Australians manage their pollen allergies and live free from symptoms.

“This launch is just the beginning – as the monitoring network grows, in collaboration with other leading universities, we can find better solutions so all Australians, regardless of geographic locations, are aware of how air quality affects their overall health now, and into the future,” Dr Mead-Hunter said.

People with hay fever are more likely to have asthma and people living with asthma also suffer from hay fever. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that asthma-related deaths remain stubbornly high in Western Australia, especially for women aged over 75 years.

Fay Johnston, Professor of Environmental Health, Public Health, Primary Care and Health Services Theme, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania said hay fever is the most common chronic respiratory condition in Australia, affecting around 18 per cent of the Australian population, or approximately 4.6 million people and pollen is a major trigger.

“Pollens also affect a large number of the 11 per cent of Australians living with asthma and pollen allergies can be extremely debilitating. Lost productivity from hay fever alone costs the Australian economy around $5 billion each year,” Professor Johnston said.

“Much can be done to reduce the burden if those sensitive to pollen get a bit of warning. Hay fever medications work much better when taken in advance of a high pollen day.”

Donna Rendell, Asthma WA CEO, welcomed the launch of the new Perth Pollen service into Western Australia.

“Living with asthma can be challenging enough, and when you add allergic rhinitis (commonly known as hay fever), this could lead to more hospital or emergency visits, and more time off work or school,” said Ms Rendell.

“Asthma WA consumers have been asking for a Pollen Count for many years, especially with Western Australia’s easterly winds, as it would be a real aid towards helping people to always stay on top of their asthma and allergy control.

“Having access to a real time Pollen Count will help people plan their day better and reduce the risk of a severe asthma flare-up. The Perth Pollen Count is an exciting step forward.”

Dr Edwin Lampugnani, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne and co-creator of the Pollen Forecast Service, said the launch of the Perth Pollen service is the next step towards a truly national Pollen Forecast network, that uses real-world observations to generate and validate the quality of its pollen forecasts.

“Our vision is to help the millions of Australians affected by allergies to airborne pollen and other allergens by discovering, translating and delivering research solutions so they can better manage their condition,” Dr Lampugnani said.

“Just as regular weather updates are often used to guide people’s daily activities, regular pollen and air quality forecasts are an important tool to help with managing a chronic illness, particularly during spring and early summer.

“Since 2012, we have helped thousands of people be better prepared for allergy season and understand how environment conditions related to their symptoms.”

Perth Pollen is now available on its website, as well as for download for free on mobile app stores, iTunes and Google Play.