Desert dust impacts on human health: an alarming worldwide reality and a need for studies in West Africa

Int J Biometeorol. 2013 Jan;57(1):1-19. doi: 10.1007/s00484-012-0541-y. Epub 2012 May 3.


High desert dust concentrations raise concerns about adverse health effects on human populations. Based on a systematic literature review, this paper aims to learn more about the relationship between desert dust and human health in the world and to analyse the place of West Africa as a study area of interest. Papers focussing on the potential relationship between dust and health and showing quantitative analyses, published between January 1999 and September 2011, were identified using the ISI Web of Knowledge database (N = 50). A number of adverse health effects, including respiratory, cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary diseases, are associated with dust. This survey highlights obvious dust impacts on human health independently of the study area, health outcomes and method. Moreover, it reveals an imbalance between the areas most exposed to dust and the areas most studied in terms of health effects. None of these studies has been conducted in West Africa, despite the proximity of the Sahara, which produces about half of the yearly global mineral dust. In view of the alarming results in many parts of the world (Asia, Europe, America), this paper concludes by stressing the importance of carrying out impact studies of Saharan dust in West Africa, where dust events are more frequent and intense than anywhere else.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Desert Climate
  • Dust* / analysis
  • Humans


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dust