Impact of Natural Dusts on Human Health

A. Cook, E. Derbyshire, G. Plumlee

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperEntry for encyclopedia/dictionarypeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Dust particles of geologic origin are a widely dispersed component of the Earth's atmosphere, often forming extensive plumes that are derived from volcanoes, dust storms, long-range transport episodes of desert dust, and displacement through natural processes such as landslides and earthquakes. These phenomena occur in all the major continents, including mobilization of Saharan dust to Europe and the Americas and regular inundation of Chinese cities and the Korean peninsula from Asian dust storms. Whole communities in areas such as central and eastern Asia are exposed to the adverse effects of natural (aerosolic) dusts at exposure levels that are encountered elsewhere only in some high-risk industries. The elements and compounds that are transported by dust phenomena and which may potentially affect human health are diverse, and include trace metals and metalloids, radioactive elements, fluoride, silicates, natural asbestiform compounds, and alkali salts. Natural dust events may act to disperse pathogens and bioallergens, and the health implications of such phenomena - often occurring over considerable distances - have only recently been acknowledged. Geogenic dusts also have indirect socioeconomic impacts on health, with ongoing effects on water quality, food production, and infrastructure such as transport networks.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Environmental Health
EditorsJ.O. Nriagu
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9780444522726
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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