Rooftop science at LHSC

August 28, 2012

Nearly every day from March to October, Jim Anderson, aerobiologist, walks onto the roof of one LHSC’s hospital buildings to retrieve the daily pollen sample.  The pollen counts then get posted on the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) website. In fact, Anderson’s pollen counts from London Ontario are the AAAAI’s only Canadian pollen counts.

“I report the tree, grass, and weed pollen counts according to the Academy’s low, moderate, high, very high scale” says Anderson. “The information can then be used by allergists, researchers, and people suffering from various allergies.”

Mid-August to mid-September is Ragweed season and Anderson’s pollen counts can help people suffering from Ragweed allergies understand the severity of the season and the symptoms they may be experiencing. “If someone is experiencing seasonal allergies, but is unaware of the source, pollen counts can guide them in a certain direction or encourage them to see an allergist,” continues Anderson.
To get the daily pollen count, Anderson uses a laboratory grade instrument that sits on a three story roof. The instrument draws air (enough to fill a 14 foot cubic Van) over a moving microscope slide in a 24-hour period. Anderson applies a stain to the slide, then counts and types the pollen as seen under a microscope.

 “This year, March had much higher than usual counts (blame the warmer weather). Pollen counts then lowered in April as the weather cooled. May tree pollen levels (normally the highest) were more like April levels,” says Anderson. “For allergists and individual patients, this may mean that symptoms may have occurred at different times than usual.”

Anderson must renew his certification with the AAAAI every two years and regularly presents at the Academy’s annual meetings. Next year, he will be leading a seminar titled “Let’s Take the Myth-Stery out of Mold”.  Anderson uses LHSC facilities and the equipment is owned by the Academy. Through his company, Environmental Allergy Assays, Anderson also specializes in mold counts and indoor mold investigations.

 Jim Anderson