Pollution, ozone, pollen, airborne animal dander, smoke, and now globally distributed mineral dust. These are just a sample of things that are demonstrated to increase the discomfort of asthma sufferers. Dust problems are not just local issues; Saharan dust is distributed across the equatorial zone all the way to Central America as well as southern North American and northern South America. Now there is evidence of significant association between global distribution of dust from these storms and asthma hospitalizations.
This interesting result comes from a study by Kanatani et al. (AJRCCM 2010, doi:10.1164/rccm.201002-0296OC) in which they use optical data from tropospheric monitoring stations in Japan from 2005 to 2009 and compare “heavy dust events,” originating in the Chinese and Mongolian deserts, with asthma hospitalizations in 8 hospitals in Toyama.
They find a significant association between heavy dust events and hospitalizations for asthma exacerbation. This is notable for the higher percentage of boys affected than girls, though the study population had fewer boys than girls. The authors also found that the effect of the dust event persisted up to 6 days after exposure.