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Ever Wonder How We Get A Pollen And Mold Count?

white pine pollen spores
Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency
Spores from white pine are among the first to pollinate in the spring, causing allergy sufferers a problem.

On the roof of 250 William Howard Taft Road in Corryville, a 1" greased rod spins every ten minutes to collect pollen and mold spores. This is a regular routine at the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency from February through November where workers provide daily numbers to allergy sufferers.

Spokeswoman Joy Landry says the data her agency provides is popular since Greater Cincinnati is an allergy hotbed. In fact, one Minnesota woman called last fall to ask whether the pollen and mold spores were low enough so she could visit Fiona at the Cincinnati Zoo.

magnified mold spores
Credit Provided / Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency
Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency
These are magnified mold spores.

Monitoring and Quality Assurance Coordinator Christopher Harrison says looking at the spores under a microscope is tedious work. "Basically we just work from one side of the rod to the other and we physically count the number of pollen spores or mold spores that are on there."

Monday's wind caused the pollen count to reach its first "high" of the year. Pine, cedar and juniper are among the first trees to pollinate. Last week's rain raised the mold count.

What is high?

The agency designates the spore count:

  • Low
  • Moderate
  • High
  • Very High

For pollen, 0-20 is low. Over 1,000 is high. For mold 0-500 is low. Five-thousand is high.
One thing to remember, according to Landry, is when you react, you're reacting 24 hours after you have been exposed.

"For example," she says, "if we have a beautiful Sunday and Monday in the spring - the sun's out, everybody's out playing, it's kind of windy - all that pollen's getting released and blowing around. You may not actually feel those symptoms until Tuesday."

There is a free downloadable brochure, Living With Allergies, and you can check the daily pollen and mold spore count on the agency's website and social media.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.