Dust Storms Are No Less Than Epidemic; Know Deadly Health Hazards

Dust is a common air pollutant generated by many different sources and activities. A dust storm carries with it millions of dust particles that lead to health hazards, including respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and irritation to the eyes, throat, and skin. According to experts, long-term exposure not only leads to lung collapse and diseases like asthma but can also cause lung cancer. Read on to know more.
Dust storms health hazards

Dust not only irritates your lungs and can trigger allergic reactions like asthma but can be life-threatening as well

Within two weeks, massive dust storms hit Delhi and Mumbai, causing devastations across the two biggest Indian cities. The intensity of strong winds not only made the entire landscape invisible but also led to many deaths after a huge billboard collapsed in Mumbai.
Apart from the fact that you need to be away from rickety building structures during these kinds of storms, it is also important that you do not let dust enter your lungs. According to experts, dust not only irritates your lungs and can trigger allergic reactions like asthma but can be life-threatening as well.
Doctors say dust can also lead to a bad bout of coughing, wheezing, and runny noses. “Dust storms are natural hazards that are caused by strong winds sweeping dust and soil from dry land into the air, also carrying allergens and pollutants into the environment leading to detrimental health effects. Dust is composed of tiny solid particles known as particulate matter which float in the air and are inhaled into the lungs leading to several respiratory issues,” Dr. Hari Kishan Gonuguntla, Consultant Interventional Pulmonologist and Critical Care Specialist, Yashoda hospitals, told Times Now.
Dr. Gonuguntla said during a dust storm event, the concentration of PM10 and PM2.5 particles is often higher than the normal thresholds recommended by the World Health Organisation. And so, bacteria and pollen, which are included in the storms become the irritants that lead to health problems.
“The larger particles enter the upper respiratory tract, while smaller particles enter deep into the lung tissue. Infants and children, the elderly group, and patients with underlying respiratory problems like asthma, and COPD are at the highest risk,” Dr. Gonuguntla added.

Lung cancer

Long-tеrm еxposurе to cеrtain typеs of dust, particularly silica, is linkеd to an incrеasеd risk of lung cancеr and causes scarring of the lungs. Silica, found in sand, quartz, and other minеrals, can cause significant damage to lung tissuеs and potentially promotе thе dеvеlopmеnt of cancеr.

Who is most at risk?

Experts believe people most prone to severe reactions due to dust storms include:
  • Smokers
  • Patients of Bronchitis
  • Those with Asthma
  • Those with lung damage due to previous illnesses and infections
Experts believe these people can have more persistent or severe wheezing, coughing, breathlessness, or an aggravation of their underlying illness whenever a dust storm strikes. “These dust particles can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals and can trigger attacks of asthma and allergic rhinosinusitis leading to runny nose, nasal blockage, sneezing, coughing, breathing difficulties, and wheezing. Other respiratory problems like pneumonia have also been reported due to dust storms,” said Dr. Gonuguntla.

Side effects not limited to the respiratory system

Apart from damaging your respiratory system, dust particles also play havoc with other important organs in your body.
Toxic pollutants can have a drastic effect on your cerebral, cardiac, skin, and immune systems. Dust particles also lead to ocular problems like allergic conjunctivitis which causes excessive watering, and red and itchy eyes. An increase in hospital visits, hospital admissions, and a decline in lung function has been reported.

How to protect yourself during a dust storm?

According to experts, during a dust storm, you must always:
  • Stay indoors if possible
  • Avoid outdoor exercise
  • Make sure your windows, vents, and doors seal well
  • Drive on the roads with caution as road traffic accidents have also been reported commonly during this time
  • Even after the dust storm subsides, the use of protective measures like face masks is advisable as the dust particles continue to linger in the air for up to a few hours to days.
  • Make sure to wash your wash and eyes with water to clean any dust particle remnants
Scientists believe even though dust storms are a natural part of the earth's bio-chemical cycle, according to the United Nations they are becoming increasingly frequent and severe across the world due to climate change. Recent studies also indicate that although it can occur naturally, the increase in frequency and intensity of dust storms in non-desert regions can be attributed in large part to human activities, including agricultural practices, water usage, soil management, deforestation, and urbanization.
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