Saharan Dust to Reduce Air Quality to Unhealthy Levels

Dale C. S. Destin|
A fresh surge of Saharan Dust is set to reduce the air quality across much of the Caribbean to unhealthy levels on Sunday. The Dust brings with it the potential for wide-reaching health implications from itchy eyes and runny nose to even death.

The presence of particulate matters 2.5 and 10, in the Saharan Dust surge, makes it potentially deadly for sensitive groups people. This includes persons with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children.

The unhealthy air quality levels increase the likelihood of respiratory symptoms in sensitive individuals, aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly.

People who are especially sensitive to the Dust should restrict outdoor activity. Also, keep windows and doors closed, as much as possible, and wear a face mask, rated to filter out PM 2.5, when going outside. Already, we are wearing masks to mitigate COVID-19, these masks are also helpful in mitigating against the health impacts of the Dust.

The caution is for mostly sensitive people. However, there is the potential for the air quality to be worse than forecast and impact everyone in the general population, resulting in increased respiratory illnesses.

The health concerns from the dust is not limited to the impacts of particulate matters. This Saharan Dust is also said to contain bacterial and fungal spores, which can also sicken persons.

Of perhaps even graver concern to health professionals is the chemical content of the Dust. It has been tested positive for such pesticides as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metals, which are known to very harmful to human health.

Research has also shown that the Dust is also harmful to the health of other creatures. It is harmful to coral reefs by way of the pathogens it contains. The dust is also credited for algae blooms or “red time”, resulting in fish kills and the death of other marine life.

The Saharan Dust is ever-present across the Caribbean but not at constant levels. It gets to us via the prevailing easterly winds, which places the Caribbean downwind from the Sahara Desert. The Dust generally peaks in June and is lowest in December.This episode of the Saharan Dust will peak on Sunday at unhealthy levels. However, at present, it is moderate and will return to moderate levels on Monday and continue this way through much of the upcoming week.

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