When it comes to pollen counts in Minnesota, only your nose knows

No official pollen counts in Minnesota

No official pollen counts in Minnesota

If you’re an allergy sufferer in Minnesota and sometimes plan your day around the pollen count, good luck. Since the pandemic started in 2020, no one in the state is any longer doing daily pollen counts. Any pollen data you might see online for the Twin Cities is largely guesswork.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Meteorologist Matt Serwe found this out when he started searching for reliable pollen data to include in his forecasts.

“I found that pretty much no one is collecting data and information, not just in the Twin Cities metro, across Minnesota,” he says.

In an email exchange with the Minnesota Department of Health, a spokesperson said they stopped reporting daily pollen counts when the organization that provided MDH the data stopped doing pollen counts.

“MDH was not doing pollen monitoring, we were reposting the data from Clinical Research Institute and they are not doing pollen counts at this time,” said Lynn Treadwell of the MDH Environmental Health Division. “Clinical Research Institute was the only site in the Twin Cities area that collected and reported daily pollen counts. Other websites give a forecast of the pollen count (low, medium, high) based upon historical and climatological data.”

The Clinical Research Institute in Minneapolis declined to be interviewed for this story, but MDH says it was told there was a staffing issue.

“They are not collecting data due to limited resources,” according to MDH. “It takes incredible staff and time to appropriately conduct pollen monitoring.”

Serwe says that’s unfortunate because pollen impacts so many people.

“It impacts how you go about your day outside, which is pretty much what we do here,” he said. “We help people navigate the outside world,” Serwe said.

Doing pollen counts is time-consuming because it involves taking samples from “pollen collector rods.” The Clinical Research Institute explains the process on its website.

“The certified pollen counting specialist at Clinical Research Institute uses a light microscope to count the grains of each type of pollen collected. Pollen grains are identified based on their shape, size and distinguishing features. Counts are reported in pollen grains per cubic millimeter of air.”

Now that CRI has stopped collecting data, Minnesota is not alone in not having anyone do daily pollen counts. According to a map from the National Allergy Bureau, the nearest pollen collection site is in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. There are no monitoring stations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or Iowa.