How climate change affects allergies, immune response and autism

The changes in the environment and biodiversity brought on by climate change could be responsible for increases in allergies, autoimmune diseases and autism, according to a Rutgers researcher



Climate change and disruption of the ecosystem have the potential to profoundly impact the human body. Xue Ming, professor of neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, who recently published a paper in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on the effects of climate change on allergies, autoimmunity and the microbiome — the beneficial microorganisms that live on and inside the human body — discusses how the delicate balance of the environment affects conditions such as allergies, autism and immune disorders.

How has climate change affected respiratory allergies?

Climate change has worsened respiratory allergic disease and has altered the immune system’s tolerance in responding to toxins, which has led to an increase in the prevalence of immune diseases. People with chronic respiratory allergic disease that affects the nose and eyes, such as asthma and allergies, are at particular risk due to increased exposure to pollen and the increased concentration and distribution of air pollutants.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, climate change has both increased the intensity of the pollen season as well as prolonged its duration. Increases in carbon dioxide were shown to lead to an increase in plant reproduction and total pollen levels, especially those plants that thrive at high carbon dioxide concentrations. For example, ragweed pollen has been increasing in concentration, with models predicting that levels will increase by four times within the next 30 years.

Thunderstorms, which have become more frequent due to rising sea temperatures, have been found to increase concentrations of pollen grains at ground level. After absorbing water, these grains can rupture and release allergenic particles that can induce severe asthmatic symptoms in patients with asthma or hay fever.

Climate change has also been linked to increased concentrations and distribution of air pollutants such as ozone, nitric oxide and other volatile organic chemicals. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that these airborne environmental pollutants may be partially responsible for the substantial increase in allergic respiratory disease seen in industrialized countries over the past several decades.

How do changes to the ecosystem affect allergies and respiratory disorders?

Deforestation and over-logging have led to a dramatic decrease in the diversity of plant species. As one species of plant becomes extinct, new species emerge to take their place. For example, as oak trees have been excessively harvested for architectural purposes, new species of trees have emerged. With these new trees come new forms of tree pollen, which are inhaled and ingested by humans on a daily basis.

Similarly, widespread pesticide use has altered the profile of insects, invertebrates and microorganisms with which we come into contact with through our soil and vegetation. As the environment is altered, our bodies are bombarded with novel organisms. The molecules which make up these organisms — known as antigens — are recognized as “foreign” by our bodies and create an inflammatory response.

How might a loss of biodiversity due to climate change affect non-respiratory diseases?

According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history, with nearly 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction due to climate change.

The loss of biodiversity related to climate change may affect the microbiome, potentially leading to inflammatory, autoimmune and neurologic diseases. Immunologic disorders, such as food allergies, are on the rise. For example, several studies have found that increases in carbon dioxide and temperature are correlated with changes in the composition of the peanut, making it more difficult for the body to adapt immunity.

Could disturbances in gut bacteria affect the autism rate?

Disruption of gut bacteria has been linked to neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, autism and Parkinson’s disease. In my own research, I found abnormal amino acid metabolism, increased imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, and altered gut microbiomes among some patients with autism spectrum disorder.

What steps can be taken to minimize the health risks brought on by climate change?

We must end the destruction of our natural environment, decrease emissions of greenhouse gases and adopt more “green” behavior. With research demonstrating links between the microbiome and autoimmune, inflammatory and neurologic diseases, it is critical that we minimize antimicrobial exposure. This may involve altering guidelines for the prescription of antibiotics by medical professionals. In addition, given that the microbiome is directly impacted by our daily environment it is important to regularly immerse ourselves in nature and familiarize ourselves with biodiverse surroundings.


From EurekAlert!

86 thoughts on “How climate change affects allergies, immune response and autism

    • It is proof that when researchers need to be published, someone makes cash available to those who can mention CC as a potential bad influence in their papers…..on whatever….asthma, drug abuse. auto fatalities, crimes, premature births, autism, pretty much anything bad you can think of…we’ve heard it all, or will hear it next week…

  1. Ah yes, Barack Obama blaming his daughter’s asthma on climate change. Very convenient way to completely ignore the effects of smoking habit.

    • my coffee is getting cold. I now have to get out of my chair, walk around my desk, walk down the stairs, then about 60 feet to the kitchen, all the while avoiding eye contact with others that I don’t want to talk to, refill my cup (if there is still coffee), and then walk all the way back to my desk.

      … f ‘n climate change.

    • Thank you for that link TedL. A very interesting article about Autism and vitamin D.
      The followin words from the discussion show that this is science!

      “The theory that vitamin D deficiency is a majorcause of autism is of medical and social conse-quence, parsimonious, has a tenable mechanismof action, subsumes numerous other theories, im-plies simple prevention, hints at a widely avail-able and inexpensive treatment effect, and easily disprovable – all components of a useful theory.”

    • As a young child in the early 1950s, I spoke very little and went to considerable lengths to avoid any personal interaction, especially talking. Rather, I would sit by myself and read, write and draw for hours. I was considered to be “very shy” or “a bit strange” or “bookish” but I have no recollection of my parents being worried about me, or being obliged to “do something” about it. In hindsight, I think they appreciated the quiet life.

      My grandson, who is now 7, behaves in many ways, just like I did at those ages. But there’s a big difference. He is on the autism “spectrum” and had to have remedial attention in special classes.

      My point being that autism only exists as a disorder because psychiatry has decided to recognise it as a disorder.

      I met a single mother with a young son who was similarly classed as autistic. His autism involves being inattentive and restless at school. He was prescribed ritalin for his “disorder”. Fortunately for him, his mother sells the pills on the black market for extra spending money, and he seems to be doing more or less OK. But as I understand it, millions of kids (overwhelmingly boys) are being fed these psychotropic drugs as a way of keeping order in the classroom.

      At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I suspect that one reason autism exists at all, is because school teachers aren’t allowed to discipline their charges as they were in previous times.

      • The other thing is that when a child is taken to an Autism assessment it is unlikely an expert is going to turn work away.

        I was bit of trouble to a lot of teachers, I loved science and maths and got bored waiting for the second and third explanations to finish so we could move on. English: I never mastered spelling and parts of speech. Fortuantely I had teachers who had strategies to cope with students like me. Sent round the school with round robins, sent to back of classroom and allowed to do stuff quietly as long as I did alright in exams, and English teacher who was sympathetic and accepted my limitations.

    • Throw in ‘too’ much Folic Acid in with the too little Vitamin D & see what happens with the correlation.

    • It’s more likely we are just doing a better job diagnosing it. As a parent with a child with autism, I know how hard it was 30 years ago to even get him tested, and even then some “professionals” told us there was nothing wrong. Today parents and health professionals alike are more aware of autism and the early signs. There is also less resistance to having a child tested.

  2. “Deforestation and over-logging have led to a dramatic decrease in the diversity of plant species. As one species of plant becomes extinct, new species emerge to take their place. For example, as oak trees have been excessively harvested for architectural purposes, new species of trees have emerged. With these new trees come new forms of tree pollen, which are inhaled and ingested by humans on a daily basis.”

    That’s a grossly simplistic view about deforestation and logging. and “new species” don’t just emerge- but I’m too busy to explain. But it is true that warmer temperatures result in more pollen. Here in Massachusetts, pollen is way up the past few years- but it was also way up in previous warmer periods. High pollen counts give me severe sinusitis. I hate it.

    “We must end the destruction of our natural environment, decrease emissions of greenhouse gases and adopt more “green” behavior.”

    Of course we need to end the destruction of the environment- but just calling for it won’t make that happen. Convince governments to come up with better zoning and ask the 3rd world nations to promote birth control.

    There is no proof that the solution is to decrease carbon emissions and have greener behavior. Pie in the sky. So, the title of the article would be improved if it was “How *****warmer temperatures***** affects allergies, immune response and autism”. But of course so many researchers today need to add “climate change” to their research to get attention and more funding.

    I suppose if Albert Einstein was around today and if he were *****far less***** intelligent, he’d ask for funding for research to link relativity theory with climate change. 🙂

    • Birth control has never lowered birth rates. The models say that it should, but the real world disagrees.

      The only thing that has ever lowered birth rates, and it is 100% effective, is increasing prosperity. You don’t get that by making government bigger.

    • I have old growth forest, and there is no diversity at all. Not a weed or blade of grass grows there. It is always dark.

  3. When I grew up in LA County area, there were 180 days of ozone non-attainment. Smog was essentially always there except after a major storm. By 2002, there were only 11 days of ozone non-attainment. And during that time the LA Basin population doubled and vehicular miles traveled quadrupled. This was all due to the introduction of catalytic converters on cars and fuel injection with feedback loop controls.
    However, during that timespan, asthma cases rose and continued to rise although emissions controls on vehicles continued to improve to meet ever tightening standards. Thus one must conclude that reducing the pollution from vehicles increases asthma. This is the logic used by current scientists, so it must be true. Where is my grand money to publish this important finding?

    • Dear Mr. Bob,

      Please, don’t misunderstand me after reading the following text.

      —The gasoline (diesel) consumption by cars in Germany in 1995 was 7.447 million liters, and the average life expentancy 73,7 (men) / 79,9 (women) years
      —The gasoline (diesel) consumption by cars in Germany in 2018 was 20.633 million liters, and the average life expentancy 78,7 (men) / 83,5 (women) years

      Conclusion using the argumentation of professor Xue Ming: The gasoline (diesel) combustion by ice cars is very healthy, because 20.633/7.447=2,77 times larger gasoline (diesel) consumption (combustion) has led to +5 years (6,78%, men) / +3,6 years (4,5%, women) increase of the average life expentancy.

      However, it is striking, that the increase of the average life expentancy for men is about 1,5 times larger than the increase of the average life expentancy ofor women. This indicates clearly that some kind of discrimination against women would be in the background. So to clarify and to stop this discrimination, and to resolve this extremely antidemocratic situation would be a very important and high priority reasearch topic. So please, approve us at least 5 million USD research grant for the next two years.

      No comment, only one question: Would be the scientific standard at Rutgers nowaday so low? I remember much better days at Rutgers…..

  4. This should be really easy to test. Climate is a function of latitude. No need for fancy computer models that try to predict the future. Just look at current results a few hundred miles apart. Is there any evidence that allergies are worse in Richmond than Baltimore? in Baltimore than Philadelphia? in Philly than Boston? in South Dakota than North Dakota?

    You’d think if there were such an obvious trend, self-interested allergists would have noticed it decades ago and moved to where the work is. A cursory review of the membership list of The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) shows no such pattern.

    • Yes, as simple as that, just compere different latitudes.

      Problem: Even Greta could do this, no grant money issued for sounding something in a non-scientific fashion.

  5. Cherry picking of times. For example, how does she know that we are not emerging from a drought of pollen? CO2 has been abnormally low, it has been hypothesised from proxy work, so botanic growth has been less than optimum, so have pollen levels, broadly…
    Like many current researchers, she attributes the slight temperature change of the last couple of centuries to anthropogenic causes, therefore it is bad, it is harmful. Just about every reconstruction of past global temperatures over thousands to millions of years shows T is either rising or falling most of the time. So what if it is rising just now? Near 50% chance, so why the hysteria?

  6. One thing that certainly increases the rate of autism is the government’s policy of paying people who have autism. Kids, there was a time when autism was rare and it was not a “spectrum” and there was no payday for being on the “spectrum.”

    When you pay for COVID-19 patients, you get more COVID-19 patients. When you pay households without fathers, you get more fatherlessness. And crime, and deaths, and riots. When you pay to find “climate change,” it’s amazing, but scientists find climate change.

    To borrow from Thomas Sowell, you can have as much autism as you’re willing to pay for.

  7. Buggar all asthma, allergies, auto-immune disease in PNG but people are loaded with parasites…apparently immune systems learn not to over-react.

    Get a worm infection to get rid of your asthma…maybe.
    Some people do.

  8. So it should be very evident that immune diseases are far far more prominent in Florida at an average temperature of 71.5 F or Hawaii at 71.3 F than in Maine at 42.1 F. That should be easy to check for someone as smart and qualified as Dr. Xue Ming. Thats one of the many the nice things about the USA, we have widely different climates north to south and east to west so climate change “effects” should be easy to study for anybody who really cares.

  9. An email from E Calvin Beisner

    Get the US out of the UNFCCC. We provide the lion’s share of funding to its functions day in and day out, our exit could spell its demise.

  10. Was this EurekaAlert written as a joke or a parody of how bad science education is today?
    There are so many non sequiturs in it. The logic causation flows jump all over the place from things that have nothing to do with climate change to conclude that climate change has made them all worse. Deforestation, pesticide use, and resulting loss of biodiversity from them (even if they are true) have zero to do with the level of CO2 in the atmosphere or some tiny rise in GMST.

    If anything, the push for “green biodiesel” and ethanol for fuels due Green Schemes pushed by climate alarmists have caused much more deforestation and pesticide use to grow those crops. So that causality is human-based but the arrow is in the wrong direction.

    The only linkage cited that may have some validity is the: [more CO2] —> [more grasses and ragweeed] —> [more pollen] —> [more allergies] linkage. But allergy and asthma rates increasing may have more to do with the Hygiene Hypothesis and urban living in smog environments than CO2 or GMST. And pushing people more into urban settings (increasing urban population and population density) with “green scheme” mass transit only makes that worse.

  11. When I compare allergy, auto immune response and autism rates between my hometown and somewhere 1.5 deg C South of me I don’t see a great deal of difference.

    I wonder why that is?

    • Wolf, since you asked: mostly from students and tenured faculty at colleges and universities (such as Rutgers), although lately they have been reaching down to grade-level “experts”, such as Greta Thunberg.

  12. OK, got it.

    Since climate change™ today is almost universally associated with “global warming” by alarmists and the MSM, it is logical to look at the inverse implications of such reasoning.

    To wit: since there are indications that Earth is approaching entry to—if not having already entered into—the equivalent of another Little Ice Age, as evidenced by the extended period of “quiet” Sun conditions, we are then led to believe there will only be good times ahead regarding “allergies, immune response and autism” as Earth changes from global warming to global cooling.

    Laissez les bons temps rouler!

  13. So, increasing rates of autism are caused by to global warming.

    OFFS – that’s just going too far.

    Do these people have no shame, or merely elevated aluminium levels in the brain? Like a V6 engine block?

    That could be easily arranged…

  14. Flora, fauna, and human prefer warmer, wetter climates to reduce allergies, and improve immune response. And autism, the basket full of symptoms?

  15. Oh dear. So much confused, and bad science, so little time. Space aliens probably have more of an effect on allergies, autoimmunity and the microbiome than “climate change” does. Space aliens are notoriously nasty and mischievous creatures, you know.

    • I note that, just as there is more climate alarmism than before, there are also more people with tattoos. Any correlation?

  16. The oft repeated notion that cutting down a forest always decreases biodiversity is irritating. Mature spruce/hemlock forests in BC are deserts: very little grows under them. After logging, an amazing variety of plants grow until the conifers take over again. Same for burned areas.

  17. Xue Ming appears to be locked into the fearmongering AGW tripe — well all these thigs have got worse so it must be CO2 that is human caused. The rise in the numbers of people with asthma or autism may or may not follow the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels (I very much doubt it). No data given, no chance of knowing.

    Probably the rise relate better to the increases of number of children vaccinated, or the rise in sales of chilled/frozen supermarket preprepared meals, or the rise in the use of vegetable oils (especially canola) over animal fats, or the use of artificial sweeteners.
    Or the rise in the use of Florine in water supplies, and florinated chemicals used in cooking utensils (versions of PTFE with all the other chemical to color it and make it stick to the pan).
    Change in formulations of building and decorating materials with building design changes that have sealed each room more effectively.
    It could be that since about 1980s children prefer to stay inside and play on computers/devices than go outside and run around, play games and exercise.

    It may be due to any one or all of the changes that have taken place since the 1980s. Is there a group of honest scientists ready to investigate?

      • Betting that medical treatments messing with the immune system might be a cause of the batsh*te increase of immune or probably immune diseases (incl. neurological diseases) is NOT “speculative chemophobia”. It’s COMMON SENSE.

        • Niceguy,
          Then YOU define “speculative chemophobia” because that is what I am seeing.
          Mdern medications are produced by skilled people with morals and ethics and special places in society that they can lose if they violate trust.
          Maybe you were thinking of the masses of alternative medications and quack practitioners like homeopaths who should he locked up to prevent further reputational damage to the chemical sciences, whose contribution to your wellbeing and mine is enomously positive. Geoff S

      • Geoff Sherrington,

        “speculative chemophobia” is a nice empty phrase but nothing to do with what I was addressing.

  18. Xue Ming.


    Urban Dictionary › define › term=zooming
    The euphoric, exhilarating feeling experienced after the ingestion of conventional analgesic medication (i.e. Percocet, OxyContin, etc.).

    Makes sense now.

  19. The climate changes much more in just one set of seasons than is proposed here. That hasn’t caused any of the catastrophic conditions she blames. This is perhaps the worst paper I have read this year.

  20. What a house of cards they have constructed. The words “potential”, and “could” in the conclusions tell you all you need to know. It is a very big stretch to connect mild warming to increases in disease of any kind.

  21. Huh. Deforestation, over-logging, and pesticide use are components of climate change now?

    “…Deforestation and over-logging have led to a dramatic decrease in the diversity of plant species. As one species of plant becomes extinct, new species emerge to take their place. For example, as oak trees have been excessively harvested for architectural purposes, new species of trees have emerged. With these new trees come new forms of tree pollen, which are inhaled and ingested by humans on a daily basis…”

    So the example provided for decreased plant diversity is…increased plant diversity.

  22. I don’t buy Professor Ming’s dubious assertions, but I have observed that contemplating climatic disasters definitely causes mental illness.

  23. So much BS in the article. Our fricking life style is causing these increases, climate change or not.

    People from rural areas eating unprocessed food have way less allergies and auto-immune diseases where autism is probably now endemic because it is diagnosed more often down to the very mild cases that have been overlooked in the past.

  24. What definition of “climate change” is this deep CCP plant with an MD from Fudan Medical University, China in 1984 using?

  25. So the hypothetical causal link is climate change -> reduced biodiversity -> reduced biodiversity in my colon -> autism. Ticks a lot of boxes.

    • It’s funny because vaxxers told use increase of autism rates in many countries was an illusion. They have a studies (who data was collected by a felon) to prove it.

  26. It’s quite amazing how a fraction of a degree in the temperature can have such a devastating impact on the world’s health!! Will we ever see and end to these research grant idiots.

  27. And, mind you, it’s the global average change that is doing all this, since nothing much is happening locally.

  28. “could”, “may”, some”, “might”
    the words of someone who does not “know”.

    All speculation with no hefty facts to back them up.

    No mention of the 2 billion people in China where there used to be a few million.
    No mention that the world population has quintupled and that the physical and social pressures of higher population just might cause problems for some.


    • ‘Extinctions’ – yes, quite a lot of ‘species’ are threatened today, but you have to realise that some zoologists, like David Attenborough – can’t count!…….He recently said that ‘95% of all life on earth was already extinct’ – and a latest estimate puts that 5% as 8+ million ‘species’ on earth today, that means that 160 million ‘species’ must be found as fossils….. Yet the Natural History Museum in London admits to less than million, c 750, 000 ‘species’ only, as fossils [although there are billions of fossils, most are of the same life form]!…….And most are not separate ‘species’ anyway, but adult or young, different stages of metamorphic life, interbreeding ‘ring species’ or natural, built-in variety…… And when you factor in evolution’s mythical ‘Missing Links’ – lets say a generous 10 minimum between each ‘species’ – that means an an awful lot more fossil ‘species’ needed…… And yet these billions of ‘species’ are represented by only a tiny handful in the billions of available fossils covering every geological level, and that handful are either not any kind of link, but fantasy as forerunners [like Pakicetus or Tiktaalik], or ‘fully formed mosaics’ with no ‘evolving’ features, no new genetics, and neither blind nor accidental, like Archaeopteryx & Lungfish…… etc!

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