Dust pollution and particle pollution affect health

Dust pollution

Pollution caused by dust and particles, poses grave danger to children, older people and people with respiratory illnesses.

What is atmospheric pollution?

Dust in homes and offices consists of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibers, paper fibers, minerals from outdoor soil, human skin cells, burnt particles and many other materials.
Dust kicked up by vehicles moving on roads make upto 33% air pollution.
Dust and pollution particles mix in the atmosphere and can travel for days across continents and countries before settling on the ground surface.

NASA and University scientists have made the first estimate of the amount and composition of tiny airborne particles that arrive in the air over North America each year. According to their estimates, 64 million tons of dust, pollution and other particles travel across countries to arrive over North America every year. This is nearly as much as the estimated 69 million tons of aerosols produced domestically from natural processes, transportation and industrial sources.

Risks from dust pollution

People with heart or lung diseases and other chronic diseases are at increased risk from dust and particle pollution. Pollution can aggravate the disease. Studies have shown that when particle levels are high, older adults with undiagnosed disease are likely to be hospitalized because of aggravated diseases. An example is the recent happenings in China. Increased levels of air pollution is affecting thousands of residents. People cannot move about without wearing face masks. Many are checking into hospitals because of breathing problems and a few deaths have been reported too. Dust pollution is posing a health threat to more than 100,000 residents in Wuhan, Hubei Province, a problem that experts say could result in many more cases of lung problems in the area.



Preventing dust pollution?

Governments and environmental agencies can take steps to prevent spread of dust locally. US environmental agency makes it obligatory on persons or agencies to minimise or mitigate production of dust. New residential housing areas are the known source for spread of dust. Construction companies can control dust emissions through simple measures like spraying construction and demolition sites with water.
Dust kicked up by vehicles travelling on road make upto 33% air pollution. Road dust may be suppressed using sweeping vehicles or water sprayers.

Avoid unhealthy exposures

People suffering chronic diseases, older aged people and children should reduce their exposure to polluting atmosphere. Watch out for the air quality index and plan your outdoor activities for days when the dust and particle levels are low. Reduce particle levels indoors by not smoking inside, and by reducing use of other particle sources such as candles, wood-burning stoves, and fire places.

Make it a point to clean indoors regularly. Using vacuum cleaners will make the job of cleaning easy. Choose vacuums with HEPA type/media filters, which can filter the air more effectively. Certified HEPA can effectively trap 99.97% of dust at 0.3 micrometres.