Is Sahara rainfall dangerous to health?

Is this torrential rain affecting France without danger? Meteo France explains the phenomenon on its website: “The depression associated with the strong winds it generates then lifts the sand in the African desert. In the context of strong and regular southern currents from the Maghreb to the European coasts, the particles carried by the wind cross the sea and can be deposited. as far as Southern Europe. “

In fact, the Sahara Desert in North Africa is still the most important source of dust in the world. However, only high winds are able to lift such heavy particles.

Sahara sandstorm: what effects on health?

From NYPost, the Dr. K. Max Zhang from Cornell University’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering investigated the health effects of airborne particles. He explained that there are three things to consider when it comes to the dust cloud of the Sahara: particle size, concentration and particle composition.

In terms of size, Max Zhang said that about 30% of the dust from the Sahara is considered “fine”, which significantly exacerbates the health effects. “Typically, smaller particles can penetrate deeper into the lungs and the health effects become more severe,” Zhang told NYPost.

“Particles cause respiratory health effects and irritation, and the smallest particles can cause cardiovascular problems and a wide range of other health impacts. »

Dr. Meredith McCormack, associate professor of medicine and medical director of pulmonary medicine at Johns Hopkins University suggests on the website lung.org of “Keep windows closed on dusty days and change air filters regularly if you live in a house with central air. »

A death rate that could rise

In a study on the health effects of Sahara dust, published in the journal Epidemiology in 2008, researchers observed the consequences of the particles for health in a period from March 2003 to December 2004 based on analyzes of air quality.

When the air was saturated with dust particles from the Sahara, the researchers observed an 8.4% increase in deaths. Scientists explain it “The possibility that Sahara dust may contain irritants or allergens is supported by several studies” In addition, other studies show that the particles can carry fungi and microbes with them.

How to protect yourself from dust particles?

“Poor air quality and large amounts of toxic particles affect anyone with pre-existing respiratory disease,” said Dr. Max Zhang. “The same goes for those who suffer from it coronavirus. »

According to the expert, this is another reason to continue wearing the mask for a few more days, because according to him, “inhalation of dust can worsen the prognosis for patients with COVID-19. Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health published separately on May 5. a study showing that air pollution is associated with higher COVID-19-related death rates.

A problem that also affects the environment

In addition to being anti-human, particles from the Sahara can be harmful. According to the World Meteorological Organization “It seems that dust from the Sahara is a fertilizer for the Amazon rainforest, and it is known that dust particles improve the production of marine biomass by bringing iron and phosphorus to sea areas that lack these elements.”. However, the same particles ravage crops and exacerbate soil erosion.

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