ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Spring and pollen are in the air, something highly evident to allergy sufferers in the metro-area. Ash and juniper pollen are spiking right now and there is little relief in sight.
Larry Caudill retired from Albuquerque's Air Quality division.
"From two spikes, juniper and cottonwood, to a continuum involving mulberry, Arizona cypress and elm trees, so now we have the longest tree pollen season in the country right here in Albuquerque," Caudill said.
Caudill says allergy season was exacerbated by people who brought in other tree species and by poor decision making. Caudill says back in the 1980s, there was a ban on planting female cottonwood trees in the area.
"People were sneezing, they could see the cotton," Caudill says. "They couldn't see the pollen. They presumed the cotton was the problem. Turned out, the cotton was not an aeroallergen at all, it was a male-produced pollen."
In planting male trees, Caudill says the city added more pollen to the air.
In the 1990s, Caudill helped draft the city's pollen control ordinance. It was added to the books in 1994, banning categories of trees and threatening violators with a fine.
"We realized we couldn't do away with pollen, but we could keep it from getting any worse. That was the intent," Caudill says.
But this pollen control ordinance has not made a noticeable difference in the Albuquerque-area. The city's Air Quality division says there's no indication of any change in the pollen count since the ordinance was drafted nearly two decades ago.
Right now there's also no one to enforce the ordinance, a task that used to fall to the city forester.
Barbara Baca, director of Parks and Recreation, says that position was moved from the Environmental Health Department to Parks and Recreation. Baca says the longtime city forester resigned in 2011 and that she has not been able to fill the position because of budgetary concerns.
Baca says they need to examine the pollen control ordinance to see if there is a better way to enforce it.
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