Dust storms have an adverse effect on emergency hospital admissions for people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a recent study out of China.
The study, which was published in the journal Respirology, was lead by professor T.W. Wong, MBBS, MSc, FFPH, of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Wong and his colleagues studied data on daily emergency admissions to major hospitals in Hong Kong for respiratory diseases, as well as indices of air pollutants and meteorological variables from January 1998 to December 2002.
The researchers identified five dust storms during the period and made comparisons to the daily emergency admissions for respiratory diseases using independent analysis. Results showed that significant increases in emergency hospital admissions due to COPD were found two days after an identified dust storm.
The researchers believe that this suggests that the coarse particles encountered during dust storms have an adverse affect on lung health, particularly in patients with COPD.
Dust storms in East Asia and South China are caused by wind-blown dust that travels long distances from North China. The concentrations of coarse particles — those with a diameter ranging from 2.5 micrometers to 10 micrometers — can reach very high levels.
“Our findings show a need for timely warning for patients with chronic lung diseases to avoid exposure to air pollution when a dust storm is imminent,” said researcher Wilson W.S. Tam.