Asthma warning over potential killer dust storm

  Last updated August 2, 2018 at 1:38 pm


Storms heading for South Australia could be a health risk.

An unusually dry winter have made conditions in southern Australia perfect for wind-driven dust storms. Credit: iStock

People with respiratory and cardiac conditions are being urged to take precautions ahead of a dust storm due to hit South Australia on Thursday afternoon.

Dust from parched countryside has been picked up in high winds thanks to unusually dry conditions.

“There is strong evidence to support that exposure to air pollution can cause adverse health outcomes including asthma and cardiovascular events,”  said Dr Pawan Sharma, who leads the Respiratory Research Group at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

“It is important to note that high winds induced-dust storms are a source of fine particulate matter (fPM) especially after a prolonged dry spell.”

Awareness of asthma from storms has increased since the 2016  thunderstorm that dumped a blanket of pollen over Melbourne, leading to the deaths of 10 people with asthma.

Sharma says that fPM becomes extremely dangerous when combined with moisture and “has the potential to exaggerate or precipitate existing respiratory and cardiac conditions”.

“Care must be taken by people who have pre-existing allergies, such as hay fever, as small particles entering the lungs through the nose and can make people struggle to breathe even if they have never suffered asthma-like symptoms before.”

He advised people with pre-existing asthma to carry their medication with them.

South Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips, also urged people pre-existing respiratory or cardiac conditions to stay indoors.

“While everyone may feel discomfort during dust storms, the people who need to be most alert to these weather conditions are those with pre-existing conditions.”

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