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Chicago among the ‘sneeziest and wheeziest’ cities, according to NRDC report

A major environmental organization has ranked Chicago No. 6 on a list of the worst cities for people with allergies and asthma.

In a report released Wednesday, the Natural Resources Defense Council examined the incidence ozone pollution and ragweed pollen in cities around the country and ranked the top 35.

The NRDC points to increased asthma and allergy problems as a side effect of climate change. Rising temperatures linked to climate change “could favor the formation of more ozone smog in some areas and increase the production of allergenic pollen,” according to the NRDC’s report.

Ozone, which is part of ground-level smog, can inflame lungs, do damage to cells in the respiratory tract and increase asthma, according to the EPA. Ragweed pollen is among the main sources of seasonal allergies.

To make its ranking, the group looked at USDA data on ragweed’s presence and EPA data on ozone levels in cities around the country.

The area around the southern portion of Lake Michigan has one of the country’s highest averages for ozone exposure, the NRDC reports.

Chicago is also a haven for ragweed. Ragweed pollen is particularly bad in urban and suburban areas because it prefers to grow in open, disturbed ground, the report said.

Chicago is by far the largest city listed in the NRDC’s top ten, though Detroit ranks just behind it at No. 7.

Chicago was also ranked highly on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2015 Asthma Capitals report due to the city’s higher than average asthma death rate and poor air quality, among other factors.

The NRDC offers some tips to help you minimize exposure to ozone and pollen:

• Keep track of pollen counts at aaaai.org/nab.

• On high pollen or ozone days, put your car and home air conditioners on recirculate and keep windows closed.

• Shower after playing outside and change clothes. Wash bedding and vacuum regularly.

• Save your most strenuous outdoor activities for low ozone days and do them in the morning, when pollen and ozone levels are at their lowest.

To read more of the report, visit NRDC.org.