Relationship between African dust carried in the Atlantic trade winds and surges in pediatric asthma attendances in the Caribbean

Int J Biometeorol. 2008 Nov;52(8):823-32. doi: 10.1007/s00484-008-0176-1. Epub 2008 Sep 5.


Asthma is epidemic in developed and developing countries including those in the Caribbean where it is widely believed that African dust, transported in high concentrations in the Trade Winds every year, is a major causative factor. The link between asthma and dust in the Caribbean is based largely on anecdotal evidence that associates sharp increases in the occurrence of asthma symptoms with hazy conditions often caused by dust. Here we report on a 2-year study of the relationship between the daily concentrations of dust measured in on-shore Trade Winds at Barbados and pediatric asthma attendance rates at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH). We looked for large increases in QEH daily attendances in relation to daily dust concentrations as previously suggested by anecdotal observations. We could not find any obvious relationship although there may be more subtle linkages between dust and asthma. Our measurements show, however, that the concentration of dust in the size range under 2.5 microm diameter is sufficiently high as to challenge United States Environmental Protection Agency air quality standards for respirable particles. Thus, African dust may constitute a health threat of a different nature, producing symptoms less obvious than those of asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Child
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • West Indies
  • Wind*


  • Dust