The role of clothing fabrics as passive pollen collectors in the north-eastern United States

Michael S. Zavada, Stephanie M. McGraw, Melissa A. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The purpose of this investigation is to determine if clothing fabrics act as passive pollen collectors, and to determine if different fabrics vary with regard to the abundance and type of pollen trapped. Five of the most common fabrics in the United States (cotton, wool, polyester, silk and linen) were used to trap pollen. The pollen collecting apparatus was constructed of a 30 cm diameter circular needlepoint hoop, which vertically rotated freely, and was mounted on a dowel that was driven into the soil to chest height. Five pollen collectors, each with one of the five fabrics were placed at a collection site in rural, suburban, and urban habitats in Rhode Island for a 24 h period at weekly or biweekly intervals throughout 2002-2003. Pollen was washed from each of the fabrics and acetolysed. Total pollen per cm2 removed from each of the fabric types was estimated using a haemocytometer. The pollen types were identified, and 200 grains were counted to determine the relative abundance of the various pollen types recovered from the fabrics. Clothing fabrics act as passive pollen collectors and the flora recovered from the fabric represent the qualitative and quantitative components of the pollen rain for that specific day. There are quantitative differences among the relative abundance of pollen types from the three habitats (urban, suburban, and rural). Washing with water and a detergent eliminates a majority of the pollen from the fabrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-291
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Allergies
  • Fabrics
  • Forensic palynology
  • Indoor contamination
  • Pollen


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