Short-term effects of desert dust on mortality
Desert dust plays a significant role in different aspects of weather, climate and atmospheric chemistry and represents a severe hazard to environment and health. The air quality influence of desert dust is a complex issue. Desert dust can increase particulate matter (PM) concentrations and carry anthropogenic pollutants co-emitted with dust, or mixed with dusty air masses during their transport, as well as microorganisms and toxic biogenic allergens.
However, the epidemiological evidence is still inconsistent. Multiple independent studies documented adverse effects of short-term exposure to desert dust on mortality, while others failed to do so. Reasons possibly contributing to these inconsistencies and inhibiting comparison of previous results have been the application of different metrics for desert dust exposure and the different approaches for epidemiological investigations.
We aim to investigate the association between short-term exposure to desert dust and daily mortality (all-cause, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases) using a standardized methodology for desert dust identification, quantification of the desert and non-desert PM concentrations on dust days, and estimation of desert dust mortality effects. The aims of this study are:
̶ to identify desert dust days in each study area, using complementary approaches to generate a binary metric exposure for dust days (yes/no);
̶ to quantify daily PM concentrations from desert and non-desert sources as a continuous metric in each city, using both satellite tools and standard methodologies;
̶ to evaluate the association between dust days (yes/no) and mortality, while adjusting for time trends, meteorology and, possibly, total PM;
̶ to evaluate the association between PM and mortality, and how this is modified by dust days;
̶ to evaluate the association between source-specific PM (desert and non-desert) and mortality, using multi-source models.