School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations

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The risks associated with airborne soil particles (dust) are often underappreciated, and the gap between the knowledge pool and public awareness can be costly for society. This study reviews the emission, chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of dust and its effects on human and environmental health and safety in the Americas. American dust originates from both local sources and long-range transport from Africa and Asia. Dust properties, trends and interactions with criteria air pollutants are summarized. Human exposure to dust has been associated with adverse health effects, including asthma, fungal infections, and premature death. One of the most striking effects of dust is Coccidioidomycosis(Valley fever), an infection caused by inhaling soil-dwelling fungi unique to this region. Dust affects environmental health through providing nutrients to phytoplankton, contaminating water supply and food, spreading crop and marine pathogens, infecting domestic and wild animals, transporting heavy metals and radionuclides, and reducing solar power generation. Dust is also a well-documented safety hazard to road transportation, aviation, and marine navigation, in particular in the southwestern United States where blowingdust is one of the deadliest weather hazards. To mitigate these harmful effects,coordinated regional and international efforts are needed to enhance dust observations and prediction capabilities (especially in South America), implement soil conservation measures, design specific dust mitigation projects for trans-portation, and conduct surveillance for Valley fever and other diseases. While focusing on the Americas, many of the dust effects found in this region also exist in other parts of the world.


For Submission to: Reviews of Geophysics

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Reviews of Geophysics



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