Curtin University, in collaboration with The School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania offers a service that forecasts the level of grass pollen and several other types of pollen in the air. The forecast alerts those with hay fever and seasonal asthma of the likelihood of being exposed to high levels of grass or other pollen types and enables them to take preventative measures in danger periods.
People with hay fever and/or seasonal asthma or who care for people with these allergic conditions stand to benefit from the information provided by the service.
Hay fever and seasonal asthma are allergic conditions and grass pollen is one of the main triggers. Allergy generally is a significant public health issue that affects more than four million Australians. The prevalence of asthma in Australia is among the highest in the world and affects around 1 in 9 people with 3-10% of these having severe asthma. About 1 in 5 Australians have allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
If forewarned, people with hayfever and asthma can take preventative measures such as avoiding high pollen areas (e.g. gardens and the countryside) or by taking appropriate medication with them when venturing outside.
Daily measurements are taken and combined with the weather forecast to produce a pollen forecast using cutting-edge machine-learning approaches. We measure the amount of pollen using two methods. Manual pollen measurements are sampled using a Burkard Volumetric Air Sampler located at Curtin University. This device collects the pollen grains (and of course other particles from the air) on a microscope slide coated with a special glue that remains sticky on hot days and when it's raining. The slide is removed from the sampler daily and stained so that the pollen grains can be counted when viewed with a microscope. We also utilise an automated pollen counter. This device takes images of particles as they pass by a camera. Machine learning approaches are then used to identify what the particle is likely to be.
While there is a history of monitoring pollen in Perth going back to the 1950s, these monitoring services were sporadic and none lasted more than a few years. Prior to 2022, the last time pollen monitoring occurred in Perth was in 1995, almost 30 years ago. The newly established Perth Pollen Count and Forecast Service will be Perth’s first and only real-time pollen monitoring and forecast service and the only service in Western Australia that uses real-world data to generate and validate the quality of its pollen forecasts.