Desert dust and human health disorders

Environ Int. 2014 Feb:63:101-13. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.10.011. Epub 2013 Nov 26.


Dust storms may originate in many of the world's drylands and have an effect not only on human health in the drylands themselves but also in downwind environments, including some major urban centres, such as Phoenix, Kano, Athens, Madrid, Dubai, Jedda, Tehran, Jaipur, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. In some parts of the world dust storms occur frequently throughout the year. They can transport particulate material, pollutants, and potential allergens over thousands of km from source. The main sources include the Sahara, central and eastern Asia, the Middle East, and parts of the western USA. In some parts of the world, though not all, the frequency of dust storms is changing in response to land use and climatic changes, and in such locations the health implications may become more severe. Data on the PM10 and P2.5 loadings of dust events are discussed, as are various pollutants (heavy metals, pesticides, etc.) and biological components (spores, fungi, bacteria, etc.). Particulate loadings can far exceed healthy levels. Among the human health effects of dust storms are respiratory disorders (including asthma, tracheitis, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis and silicosis) cardiovascular disorders (including stroke), conjunctivitis, skin irritations, meningococcal meningitis, valley fever, diseases associated with toxic algal blooms and mortality and injuries related to transport accidents.

Keywords: Cardiovascular; Dust storms; Human health; Particulates; Respiratory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Allergens / toxicity
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • China
  • Disease / etiology*
  • Dust*
  • Environment
  • Fungi
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wind*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Dust
  • Particulate Matter