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Pine Tree Pollen Coats the Northeast

June 8, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ It’s yellow, it’s dusty and it’s everywhere.

Bursts of pollen have formed a thick coating on virtually everything in the Northeast _ from cars to patio furniture to window sills.

But while allergy sufferers can blame mold and grass pollen for their sneezes and coughs, everyone else can curse the ubiquitous white pine for discoloring their belongings.

The white pine, so named for the light hue of its wood, is the dominant variety of pine from Maine to the mid-Atlantic, and west to the Great Lakes region.

At the moment in the Northeast, the tree is at the height of its pollination season, the annual two- to three-week dance that ultimately will yield the following year’s pine cone crop.

``I’m sure it has been this bad, but not in the last few years memory,″ said John O’Keefe, coordinator of the Fisher Museum of Forestry in Petersham.

Like many things in nature, heavy pollen seasons are cyclic, worsening every three to five years or so. This year’s blast of pine pollen has been exacerbated by the dry weather. Rain washes pollen away.

Rain, however, doesn’t seem to do much for removing the greenish-yellow film from vehicles. Wetness turns the dust into a sticky goo that windshield wipers just seem to smear.

The only remedy? A high-powered car wash.

Mike St. Pierre of Gentle Touch Car Wash in Nashua, N.H., said that before pollen season his shop washed an average of 125 cars a day. These days, they’re doing up to 400.

Business also has more than doubled at the Lechmere Autowash Center in the Boston suburb of Somerville. The shop cleaned more than 2,000 cars this weekend alone.

``We’ve been in business for 30 years and this has been one of the worst for pollen. In translation, it’s one of the best for us,″ said owner Vicki Previte.

Maria Vaquez, 31, of Boston, spent part of Monday scrubbing her green 1985 Chrysler Fifth Avenue.

``I just washed this car two days ago and it’s dirty again,″ she sighed. ``I don’t know what it is, but it’s sickening and makes your car look horrible.″

Homeowners have resorted to dust rags and polishers to clear the film off computers, television screens, book shelves _ anything near an open window. The pollen even squeezes through window mesh.

Still, the majority of allergy sufferers are immune to white pine pollen, said Dr. James MacLean, an allergist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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