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Environ Int. 2019 Sep;130:104867. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.05.061. Epub 2019 Jun 14.

Monitoring the impact of desert dust outbreaks for air quality for health studies.

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Institute of Environmental Assessment & Water Research, Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:
Institute of Environmental Assessment & Water Research, Barcelona, Spain.
Department of Epidemiology, Lazio Regional Health Service, Rome, Italy.
Department of Earth Sciences, Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Barcelona, Spain.
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, USA.
Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.


We review the major features of desert dust outbreaks that are relevant to the assessment of dust impacts upon human health. Our ultimate goal is to provide scientific guidance for the acquisition of relevant population exposure information for epidemiological studies tackling the short and long term health effects of desert dust. We first describe the source regions and the typical levels of dust particles in regions close and far away from the source areas, along with their size, composition, and bio-aerosol load. We then describe the processes by which dust may become mixed with anthropogenic particulate matter (PM) and/or alter its load in receptor areas. Short term health effects are found during desert dust episodes in different regions of the world, but in a number of cases the results differ when it comes to associate the effects to the bulk PM, the desert dust-PM, or non-desert dust-PM. These differences are likely due to the different monitoring strategies applied in the epidemiological studies, and to the differences on atmospheric and emission (natural and anthropogenic) patterns of desert dust around the world. We finally propose methods to allow the discrimination of health effects by PM fraction during dust outbreaks, and a strategy to implement desert dust alert and monitoring systems for health studies and air quality management.


Aerosols; Atmospheric particulate matter; Epidemiology; Mineral dust; Natural and anthropogenic contributions

[Available on 2019-09-01]
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